I suppose you might be a bit surprised or even disappointed after discovering the content of this post. Anticipating such reactions, I kindly ask you to bear in mind that Polish society is still very conservative ;-) Our funny righ-wing politicians and the notorious Catholic activists are always ready to protest and declare that their religious feelings were deeply hurt by this or that (a song, a movie, a poster or a commercial).
We have an organization called Advertising Council [Rada Reklamy] and people can file there their official complaints about ads they find offensive, misleading or sexist. In 2008 Advertising Council received 460 complaints and half of them were protests against House’s Virginity Campaign.
- Guard me, Father – teaser billboard / House Virginity campaign
House is a popular Polish clothes brand for very young people (target age group: 19-25) – House branded garments are distributed through their own chain of shops in Poland, Russia, Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine and some other countries. The brand has been known for controversial communication – in the past House launched a special interactive web-service which was basically making fun of the old orthodox Catholic ladies famous for wearing mohair berets. It become very popular due to viral spreading.
Guard me, Father - teaser billboard ver 2 / House Virginity campaign
In March 2008 House launched a new campaign focused on the issue of (not) keeping Virginity – it all started with two versions of teaser billboards showing: (1) a sweet teenage girl holding a rosary and praying – the slogan was: Guard me, Father or (2) an innocent boy, also praying with a rosary + the same slogan. There was a special website www.virginity.pl created for the teaser campaign which promoted the idea of keeping virginity. After a couple of weeks, the teaser lay-outs were replaced by a more erotic-driven ads.
There are 69 ways to keep Virginity / Bus Shelter Citylight Panel ad
The “post-teaser” lay-outs displayed the same girl and boy, but in a new posture with fingers V-shaped (V was the main symbol of the campaign) and their tongue stuck out. The new slogan contained very clear sexual hints: There are 69 ways to keep Virginity.
There are 69 ways to keep Virginity / Citylight Panel
There were also print ads in youth and lifestyle magazines and a variety of ambient media used in the campaign – in student dormitories (special leaflets on the doorknobs), handys in citybuses, posters in popular pubs and clubs in toilets. These ads were even more controversial as they containes handwritten-like inscriptions of the sort: Virgin’s biggest asset are her lips or I’m a virgin, but not a saint.
Virgins rule! / A Virgin, but not a Saint / The biggest asset of a virgin are her lips - Toilet poster in a club
Obviously House exploited the controversy around the concept of keeping Virginity by mixing it with some religious ingredients and thus creating additional buzz and protests. Finally the Advertising Council banned this communication and demanded that House removes the controversial lay-outs – but this decision was announced when the campaign was already finishing, so it only helped to trigger new discussions about freedom of speech in Polish advertising.
The creative agency behing this campaign was a local Polish agency Koledzy Strategia & Kreacja, and the media-planning and buying was delivered by Mediaedge:CIA.