German companies and authorities are desperately trying to get attention by placing advertisements wherever they can. Those who really want to stand out use “adult language” in English. It seems to work well.
Berlin, January 31, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — In a German online advertisement for a robot vacuum cleaner, the product was said to be “perfect for pet hair”. Who will remember this one? Hardly anyone. The next banner ad that appears was designed to sell SIM cards for mobile phones. That says a lot about a large volume of data. The tagline says “Überall zu Hause(“Home Anywhere”). In this case, the illustration looks good. Still, it’s a conventional announcement. This might generate some interest, especially because the offer is attractive, but most people will probably forget about this ad within seconds, when they open the next website.
Every day, everyone is drowned in advertisements all day long. They are placed on large billboards in the city, printed in newspapers, they appear on the Internet or appear in our mailbox. In addition to all this, radio spots and television commercials are constantly reaching us. Since there is an excess of advertising, the agencies or individuals who create these campaigns have to be very creative in order to ensure that the message hits home. In the case of the German government’s new advertising campaign for Corona vaccinations, this did not work very well. “Vaccinations help,” say the first banners in the series. How is that supposed to convince anyone? And how come this rather lame campaign would cost €60m (US$66.9m or £50m)?
In former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, at least one high-ranking member, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, knew what he had to do. In early 2019, he commissioned an advertising campaign for the use of bicycle helmets and insisted it had to be memorable. The message was meant to be the obvious: helmets should be worn for safety reasons. What should the ads have said? “Don’t forget to put on your helmet when you ride a bike”? Yawn. Or how about “Just wear it”? This one would have been better, but not exactly memorable. Advertisements published by the German Transport Ministry read: “Looks like shit. But save my life. Yes, in English.
The Germans seem to react to English advertising slogans. And they love their anglicisms, especially when they contain four-letter words. In 2012, the English word ‘shitstorm’ became ‘anglicism of the year’. It is used in the government district of Berlin and even in the evening news. No, Germans will not use their own four-letter words in advertisements or TV shows, but in English. In advertising, what the Americans call “adult language” seems to work well. “Best fucking burger in town.” Who wouldn’t remember a homemade sign with this slogan? It was hung by a restaurateur, next to the entrance to his business in the Berlin district of Graefekiez two years ago.
Recently, FitX, a German gym chain with 95 branches across the country, released a new advertisement on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, a square that is essentially the center of the universe in the sense that absolutely everyone drives, rolls or walks all the time. . This giant billboard shows a young woman working out in a gym, looking very determined and sweating to death. The tagline reads “I’m fucking stealing!”. Yes, it is a memorable announcement.
We live in the 2020s. Almost everyone swears. They do it in movies, in ministries, in college, and everywhere else. Four-letter words are widely accepted. So why not use them? An interesting, less rhetorical question has not been answered: why do Germans use four-letter English words in their advertisements, instead of their own? Maybe because they don’t seem so vulgar, at least to Germans?
In addition to standing out, advertisements containing words considered bad in the last century have another advantage: they are mentioned in articles like this. That way even more people will see them, which means they’ll reach even more people than if they had been boring.
Related function: “Scheisse”: the universal German swear word
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