Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Radio Advert ruled as offensive to Germans

There seems to be a German theme emerging on HR Case Studies this week.

In what appears to be a crass error of judgement, Reed Recruitment recently launched a radio advertisement (for their own recruitment jobsite) implying, in the view of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), that Germans are tyrants. The ASA has subsequently banned the advert, saying that it could cause serious offence to some listeners and was found to be offensive because it used a negative stereotype.

Whether the 13 individuals who complained to the ASA were German or not, we do not know.

The Advertising Standards Authority also judged that:

While the use of stereotypes was inevitable to establish a character in a short radio advert, this should not perpetuate damaging misconceptions. We noted the ad used a German speaker, rather than someone speaking English, to portray the boss as 'a bit of a tyrant' and the humour derived from a stereotype at the expense of German people. We considered that the portrayal suggested that German people were more likely to be unreasonable or aggressive to others. We concluded that, given the extreme reaction and aggressive tone of the German-speaking boss, the ad reinforced a negative and outdated cultural stereotype of German people as overpowering and tyrannical and therefore the ad had the potential to cause serious offence to some listeners.

Ultimately, the advert was judged by the ASA to have breached rules governing good taste and must not be broadcast again in its current form.

Fortunately for the esteemed readers of HR Case Studies, here's a link to the Reed Recruitment advert for you to judge for yourselves.

Guardian: Radio Ad ruled as offensive to Germans
  • Offensive, or just good humour? What do you think?


  1. I am German and to me the ad is not offensive at all. I think that's mostly because I, like probably most Germans, do not feel related at all to these kinds of stereotypes. We know they exist (just look at how Germans are pictured in James Bond movies or think of Tarantino's "Werewolf Women of the SS" in the fabulous "Grindhouse" double feature), but so what? The shouting military German is a very old and outdated at-least-65-year-old cliché, to make real fun of "us" it should be a bit more up-to-date (Germans are more nagging and besserwissing about everything than shouting nowadays), but that is very obviously not the point of the ad, which is made for British people. By the way, the almost-fake German in the ad sounds funny and is not very comprehensible, they should have asked a German to do the shouting. ;)

  2. I agree with Stella, they should have asked a native German to do the shouting. Also, being German, I am not offended. Haven't we all met someone like this - somewhere in the world : )

  3. Stella/Daniel

    Thanks very much (or perhaps that should be Vielen Dank!)for the comments. Perhaps us Brits are just a bit too sensitive about what offends other people!

    Schönes Wochenende!