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The Unending Advertising Exploitation Of Barack Obama

The latest, questionable Israeli entry features the President holding a boom box. Also, the 11 most memorable, from KFC to condoms.

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Ahead of the Knesset elections, January 22nd, news station Reshet Bet 95.5 FM is apparently running this badly Photoshopped ad (created by Y&R Israel) showing the President listening to their broadcast on a boom box (no on-purpose racial stereotyping here, one would hope).

A second ad in the campaign shows Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad listening to the radio while bathing, with the thought, presumably, that he might accidently kill himself. The copy has been translated to English for publicity purposes.

The Israeli campaign is just the latest in a bulging portfolio of illicit Bam-branding from the last four-plus years. This President has been used in scores of ads worldwide to sell everything from ice cream in Russia to Dijon mustard in Canada. Obama has been exploited in advertising like no other President in history, excepting Washington and Lincoln during the annual glut of Presidents Day sales ads. The only historic leader who compares to him in ad appearances is, maybe, Hitler.

Why has this happened? There are two obvious reasons. First, he is immensely popular in other countries, and is instantly recognized worldwide — thus giving brands an immediate boost in memorability and recall. There is also the enduring global fascination with the unorthodoxy of Obama's being the first black U.S. President.

Pretty much all of the international Obama ads have featured positive selling messages. This was not the case with his White House predecessor, George W. Bush. The Bush-riffing ads were universally negative. Just a few examples: Tesa tape, a TV showing of American Psycho, Philips Power4Life, and Veet hair removal cream.

We probably won't see quite as many Obama ads in his second term as we saw in his first, now that the novelty is gone. (Though Durex has already weighed in on Bam's penis.) But brands will continue to exploit him as long as his brand continues to be a winning one.

The 11 Obama exploitation ads presented here are the most memorable out of about 100 worldwide from the last five years. I’m sure there are many more out there that aren’t online. None of them appear to have been run by the White House legal team for approval.

1. Benetton, 2011

Trying to again stir up controversy via their advertising, the Italian clothing retailer launched a campaign titled "Unhate." Obama was featured in two ads, one (L) smooching Chinese leader Hu Jintao, and the second showing him swapping spit with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The effort was named best press campaign at Cannes last June, which left me shaking me damn head.

It wasn't even a very original idea by Benetton, as proven by this 1991 ad.


2. Axe, 2008


Print ad ran in several editions of Metro and AM New York during February, 2008. Kinda funny, but Obama wearing white mook boy scent Axe was just too much of a stretch in believability.

3. Kwik Fit Tires, 2009

View this video on YouTube

Witty, humorous Plunderphonics mash-up of Obama speeches for Kwik Fit, a British chain of 570 automotive and tire centers.

Taking advantage of the fact that Obama mentioned the importance of tires in one of his energy speeches, the London office of DDB created video magic.

This is the best Obama ad I've seen.

5. E-Mobile, 2008

View this video on YouTube

Japanese mobile phone company E-Mobile believed that making Obama a primate and dressing him in a presidential monkey suit would sell a shitload of cell phones. Apparently, the monkey is the company's mascot. So, *nothing* racist here.


6. Life Always, 2011

Even his foes jumped on the Bam brand bandwagon.

Pro-Life group Life Always put up this board on State Street in Chicago.

I'm surprised a Pro-Choice group didn't erect a board right next to it that read "Every 21 minutes, the next possible Hitler is aborted."

7. Weatherproof jackets, 2010

Weatherproof erected this billboard in Times Square in January, 2010.

This is the only one of these ads that the White House officially responded to, demanding that Weatherproof pull the board. They did, but they took their sweet time.

8. KFC Hong Kong, 2011

View this video on YouTube

Obama is played here by a spot-on Barack-alike. The commercial only aired briefly in January, 2011.

Said KFC Hong Kong: "The ad was created in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong market only. It was meant to be a spoof and no disrespect was intended. It is no longer airing and will not be re-aired."

Nothing disrespectful about being crushed by a fake-fish fillet sandwich.

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