After last year’s dark and emotional Christmas ad with a man faking his own death just to get his children home to visit, Edeka had some big shoes to fill with their new ad this holiday season. The German retailer may have accomplished that needed emotional tug, but some subtle neo-Nazi details within the spot has the company doing some major damage control.
The message of Edeka’s commercial was supposed to be: stop wasting your time buying, baking or cruise control Christmas experiencing and start spending time with your children and family. Telling consumers to stop buying is a surprising message for a retailer, and after being released it received glowing praise — that is until it was discovered that license plate numbers seen in the ad contained some direct Nazi references that are very much illegal in Germany.
Early on in the spot, a mother pulls up to get her waiting daughter and the car has a very prominent plate that reads: MU SS 420. In Germany it is illegal to have ‘SS’ on license plates as it was a common abbreviation for the Nazi paramilitary group — the Schutzstaffel. The ‘420’ that follows is often used in neo-Nazi circles as a reference to Hitler’s April 20 birthday.
If that wasn’t enough to turn people’s heads, another car used later in the spot features a license plate that read: SO LL 3849, and while the hidden messages may be less obvious than ‘SS’, they are there.
The number ’84’ is often recognized as an abbreviation for ‘HD’, or ‘Heil Deutschland’, as the individual numbers match up with the eighth and fourth letters of the alphabet. While it may be a bit of a stretch, the remaining 3 and 9 could signify the anti-semitic Christian-pride sequence often used by neo-Nazis.
Edeka is trying to pass the references off as just a simple coincidence, but it is hard to imagine that that is the case. Executives responsible for approving the spot very well could’ve missed the references, but there is no mistaking that someone on the ad agency’s creative team made a conscious decisions to sneak the messages in.
In a statement, Edeka made an effort to cover their ass by saying the ‘MU SS’ found on the first plate was based on the spot’s title song and said that they now “regret the fact that a wrong impression was created here. This was in no way our intention”.
Taking that ownership may have been the retailer’s worst mistake as it takes the blame off the ad agency, where it most like came from, and puts it on themselves.