Late last year 7-11 kicked up a furore in Taiwan when they teamed up with Taiwanese author Mark Lee to sell merchandise featuring a character based on Hitler.
Naturally the Israel embassy weren’t too impressed and after first claiming Hitler’s moustache was a tooth and then claiming that there was no resemblance of Lee’s character to Hitler… they pulled the products from sale.
Interestingly enough, Lee then went on to apologise after ‘carefully reviewing the history of Israel’.
Despite having read up on his history, less than a year later Hitler is once again being used to flog tech gear.
On the surface, the May 2012 edition of ‘BIZ Interactive Business Magazine’ looks like any other regular magazine…
Flip it open though and right there on page one is a giant full-sized ad from Ergotech featuring Hitler flogging some tablet PC promotion they have going:
Not as prominent as Hitler themed merchandise being sold in 7-11 stores… but still remarkably unmistakable.
Now whereas Ergotech’s blunder could be chalked up to be a local Taiwanese company who could pull the ‘we didn’t know any better’ excuse and go educate themselves on the most significant event of last century, BIZ Interactive Business Magazine however should know better.
Biz Interactive Business Magazine is published by LiveABC, who claim they are ‘an innovator in designing language-learning tools‘ with their publications ‘enhancing Taiwan’s international reputation as a centre of culture and learning’.
Just to put things entirely into context here, BIZ Interactive Business Magazine is an English learning magazine aimed at businesspeople looking to brush up on their English skills in a business environment.
How on Earth a full-sized ad featuring a Hitler lookalike cartoon character on page 1 got past the editors is then not only a complete mystery but painfully inexcusable. Especially when you’re also running around claiming Taiwan is an epicenter of cultural learning.
Interestingly enough, LiveABC cite the USA as one of their target markets. I understand that BIZ Interactive Magazine isn’t really aimed at English-speaking readers but I’m still kind of curious as to whether or not the magazine is on sale there. Forget about Taiwan’s tiny market, being caught out with Hitler ads in the US is a gigantic PR disaster just waiting to happen…
As for Ergotech, thankfully they don’t have Hitler plastered all over their website but I did find this Youtube video embedded on one of their product pages:
I don’t know how big Ergotech is here in Taiwan (the above video has been viewed over 2000 times without raising an eyebrow) but they seem to have no problems using Hitler to market their goods. Hell, they even seem entirely enthusiastic about it.
Meanwhile despite Mark Lee claiming he’s brushed up on his world history, apparently he still doesn’t get why using the image of Hitler to pimp goods is a bad idea.
One can only hope that a Taiwanese businessman doesn’t one day stick his foot into it abroad by referring to Hitler as that ‘cute funny guy’ should the opportunity present itself.
Then again, one would hope members of the Taiwanese business community would be educated enough to know beforehand who Hitler was in the first place and why it’s not really appropriate to use his likeness to market things.
I’ve contacted the Israel embassy in Taiwan for comment and will update here if I hear anything back. They weren’t too happy with 7-11 last year so it’ll be interesting to see when faced with the promotion of the same character whether or not they’re amused.
Update 4th May 2012 – I received a reply today from the Israeli Embassy:
Thank you very much for informing us!
Frankly, we feel it’s very regretful that this kind of incident occurred again.
We approached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding this case, and they contacted both Mr. Lee and Ergotech.
Both responded immediately and positively: Mr. Lee apologized for the contract of this case was signed before the 7-11 incident, when he wasn’t aware of the sensitivity.
He apologized that he couldn’t take action about it in this case. However he is modifying the character’s appearance for future use, and intends to show us his final version before he sent it out in the market.
We will also meet him personally to broaden his understanding and knowledge about the horrors of the Holocaust.
Ergotech representative, a manager, said they would pull down the advertisements on website, but unfortunately, they couldn’t get back the ones that were already printed and in the market.
They assured the MoFA official that they will not commit such a blunder in the future.
We’re still waiting to hear from the magazine – especially since you mention they were advised against running the ad. We’ll let you know.
We really appreciate your approaching us, making it possible to remove those terrible ads & products from the market. Thank you!
Media & Public Affairs Officer
Glad to see Mark Lee apologised and more importantly is going to modify the Hitler character. Hitler is pretty recognisable so I don’t see why, if he wants to market with the character, he can’t use a less than carbon copy of Hitler (keep the jacket (maybe minus the armband) but change the head etc.).
Although I suppose the identity might then be lost on the general Taiwanese the comic is aimed at but maybe not if they’re already familiar with it.
Ergotech are pulling the ads so good on them and it’s a bit disappointing to see LiveABC haven’t replied yet, considering they approved the ad for publication and claiming to propagate an image of ‘cultural learning’ for Taiwan.