Dubai gym uses Auschwitz in ads

Fitness center touts itself as "a calorie concentration camp" before ending the campaign.

By ARIEH O’SULLIVAN / THE MEDIA LINE
January 7, 2012 16:54
2 minute read.
Main railway building at Poland’s Birkenau camp

Auschwitz-Birkenau 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

An attempt by a gym in Dubai to use the image of the Auschwitz concentration camp to goad people into losing weight has drawn the attention sought after by the founder.

Phil Parkinson, the founder and owner of The Circuit Factory in Dubai, quickly apologized for an ad that showed the iconic picture of the entrance of Nazi death camp with a caption that read “Kiss your calories goodbye.” He said the ad, on the gym’s Facebook page, was only visible for a short time before he removed it.

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But it was enough to draw a slew of remarks, some full of disgust at the ad’s bad taste, but quite a few supporting the gym and dismissing the criticism.

“In light of a recent poster that has caused offense - Very sorry for this - Provoking campaign was not offended (sic) to upset people. It's been removed and deleted,” Phil Parkinson wrote on his Facebook site.

Parkinson, a 32-year-old British national, said he had removed the ads after just a few hours and had fired his marketing team. Parkinson, who did not return calls from The Media Line, was quoted as saying in The National daily that he used an image of Auschwitz to advertise weight-loss and exercise classes because “it’s like a calorie concentration camp.”

However, the furor he caused seems to have also been his aim.

“The idea of the campaign isn’t to upset anybody. The way branding works is … you want people talking about your business. We want them talking about us, but we don’t want people to take offense at it,” Parkinson said.

The campaign was bombarded by users on Facebook and other social media sites. One man named Tim commented that offended people should be offered a free session at the gym “to see what they’re made of.” And suggested it was all in good humor. “It’s a PR trick, people … The only people that are stupid are the ones that fall for this obvious stunt,” said another comment.

Still, it is difficult to see how any benefit could come from associating a business with a Nazi concentration camp, where over three million people were believed to have been murdered or died during the 1940s.

“To use images of any genocide to advertise a product is, at best, almost unbelievably inept,” Alexander McNabb, director of Spot On Public Relations in Dubai, told The Media Line. “The gym has used other ‘shock’ tactics to promote itself, which some people may find attractive but most will find at least mildly offensive.”

“People in the Gulf are generally hospitable and respectful and many still feel this move was ill thought-through and crass at best, even when they themselves may not find it as directly offensive as others,” said McNabb, a Middle Eastern publicity agency specializing in on-line social media. “Few Europeans would fail to find the use of images of somewhere as horrific as Auschwitz Birkenau to promote weight loss deeply offensive. You can only wonder at someone, somewhere thinking it would be clever.”


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