In no-holds-barred advertising 'bad news is good news'

Complaints succeed in removing offensive poster.

In Jerusalem, when billboard advertising offends the sensibilities of the public in general and the haredi community in particular, the billboard is often vandalized. In Ra'anana, there is apparently no need for such drastic action. All it takes is a complaint to the advertising department of the municipality. Local resident Janine Bloch was outraged by a Diesel poster featuring the naked backs of three people, two of whom held large black whips and were playing tic-tac-toe on the back of a third person whose hands were tied. It was a game meant to draw blood - as was obvious from the back of one of those with a whip in the ad, who had evidently previously been subjected to the same treatment. The ad, labeled "Whip," was meant to promote Diesel's fall collection of jeans. "I was shocked that something like that could be displayed in Ra'anana," Bloch told The Jerusalem Post. "We all know that this kind of thing goes on, but we don't want it to happen in our society," she said. Hoping to elicit the support of other residents, Bloch stopped passers-by to ask their opinions of the poster. Everyone she asked had a negative response. Spurred by their reactions, Bloch called the municipality's education department, and was told that the matter was not in their purview. Next she called the municipality's spokeswoman, only to learn that the city had no hard-and-fast rules about the content of billboard posters. Then she spoke to Batya Alfasi Bercu, head of the municipality's advertising department, who explained that the billboards were rented out to advertising agencies and the municipality had no control over them. However, the advertising department later said that, following complaints, a call had been made to the advertising agency, which agreed to take the posters down. Offensive advertising has been par for the course for a long time. Global companies such as Benetton, Calvin Klein and Diesel revel in it, because it is a great attention-grabber. And more recently, Israeli companies such as Fox, TNT and Castro got in on the act. Renzo Rosso, head designer at Diesel, is certainly no stranger to controversy. Some of his previous advertising campaigns have sparked off considerable public protest - in particular, the graphic depiction of a man sawing a female mannequin in half that some critics compared to a serial killer. Israelis used to balk at television commercials that were merely vulgar, but it didn't take long for vulgarity to evolve into super-sexy, pornographic, violent, bizarre or sado-masochistic. Israel Television's Hanan Azran, who tackles such issues on his weekly Due Diligence program, interviewed Yigal Armoni, the CEO of Armoni Marketing Communications Advertising and Public Relations, who more or less admitted that there are no red lines. "We think about what people want to see," he said in reference to some of the more lurid scenes that appear in posters, magazines, newspapers, catalogues and calendars. "Bad news is good news."