German Retailer Pulls Ad About Thieving Poles
German-Polish relations, difficult at best since World War II, haven't been helped by a German TV commercial implying Poles are thieves. Consumer goods retailer Mediamarkt, whose advertising slogan is "I'm Not Stupid", withdrew the ad after a storm of Polish protest.
German consumer electronics retailer Mediamarkt has withdrawn a TV commercial -- depecting its staff having their trousers stolen by Poles -- after a barrage of complaints and a stern letter from the Polish ambassador to Berlin.
Mediamarkt, known for its cheeky ads, said it had overstepped the mark and apologized for offending Poles. "We deeply regret this and would like to apologize sincerely to all those who were insulted or even hurt by this," the company said in a statement.
The ad was playing on a widespread prejudice in Germany that Poles steal anything not nailed down. There are many German jokes about Poles stealing cars and travelling to the country is seen by many as dangerous. Most of the complaints came from Poles living in Germany, where the ad was screened.
"Poles are decent people," says a Mediamarkt salesman in the ad before being left trouserless by a group of Polish customers.
Polish newspapers picked up the story and immediately called for the commercial to be banned because it promoted negative stereotypes.
Germany's Die Tageszeitung newspaper reported that Poland's ambassador to Berlin, Andrzej Byrt, had written a letter to Mediamarkt accusing it of "using a false stereotype, and one that is unworthy of Germans, that Polish customers are thieves." If Polish customers didn't pay for their purchases, Mediamarkt would have no interest in remaining in Poland, he added, referring to the group's 30 stores in Poland.
The commercials had only run for four days. The company hasn't withdrawn separate commercials that play on clichés about French and British customers as being erotic and stiff upper-lipped, respectively.