For Israeli advertisers, North Korea is... funny?

Castro, HOT launch campaigns featuring Kim Jong-Un.

March 18, 2018 18:01
3 minute read.
Kim Jong-un

North Korea supreme leader Kim Jong-un. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Two actors, two pop stars, a TV host and a celebrity chef are heading to North Korea. It’s not a breakthrough in diplomatic relations, it’s just one big advertising stunt for the clothing brand Castro. And it comes just a month after TV provider HOT published a commercial featuring Kim Jong-Un launching a nuclear attack on the United States.

While global relations with the brutal dictatorship of North Korea are constantly in the headlines amid international concern, Israeli advertisers seem to find the whole thing pretty amusing.

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The HOT ad, which hit screens in early February, features a Kim lookalike hitting the button to bomb the US, gleefully saying “Bye-bye America.” But the Internet crashes before the launch can go off, and a delegation of Israelis singing “Hevenu shalom aleihem” enter the hall. As it turns out, they’re not bringing peace, but a faster Internet connection that allows the bombing of the US to be completed. Success?

While the HOT ad mocks Kim, the Castro campaign, played out largely on social media, also pokes fun at the beleaguered and impoverished North Korean citizens. When Zina met Kim Jong Un (Hot/YOUTUBE)

Starting last week, a range of Israeli celebrities – including Static and Ben-El, Rotem Sela, Assi Azar, Aviv Alush and Yisrael Aharoni – began uploading Instagram posts hinting at travel to North Korea. That was all leading up to a “live” fashion show on Thursday where Kim set the stage for Castro’s new spring collection. The visitors followed the barked orders of North Korean military officials to wave, kiss babies and cut ribbons.

“Media say North Korea is bad. Kim is bad,” barks a fake military leader. “No. Kim is good. Kim great fashionista.” That’s after Sela was kidnapped from her apartment by two North Korean soldiers and brought to the country for Kim’s amusement, of course.

“Rockets of love,” the brand wrote on its Facebook page. “An army of fashionistas. Make love, not war.”

While plenty of fans of the stars were amused, some thought the campaign was in poor taste.

Journalist Haim Etgar called the company’s campaign “very jarring.”

“In North Korea hundreds of thousands are brutally murdered,” he tweeted. “The ruler is an abominable tyrant. Would anyone consider fashion photography with celebrities with Pol Pot/Pinochet/Milosevic in the background?”

Of course, Israel isn’t really known for its tactful and tasteful commercials.

A 2017 ad for Veet hair removal was pulled after it implied that men should have some say in women’s intimate grooming decisions.

A 2015 commercial for the Agadir burger chain featured an elderly man next to a young blonde in a bikini with the caption “rich taste.”

Last year, supermodel Bar Refaeli appeared in a Hoodies commercial where she ogles a young man changing clothes before realizing it’s her younger brother, fellow model On Refaeli.

And this week, Refaeli’s sunglasses company, Carolina Lemke, published an ad featuring her and Jeremy Meeks breaking into a house, tying up an unsuspecting couple and robbing them. Meeks, of course, is a convicted felon who launched a modeling career from prison after his mug shot went viral.

Even political commercials in Israel have been judged objectionable over the years.

In 2015, a Shas ad was ruled too offensive to air after it depicted a Russian-speaking immigrant getting a faxed conversion certificate before going ahead with a Jewish wedding. And the same year, a housing development in Kiryat Gat was slammed for selling potential buyers on a community free of pesky “ethnic” neighbors.

It’s pretty clear that there are no sacred cows – and no political correctness – in Israeli commercials. North Korea is just the next destination along the way.

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