Berlin tourism ad flips the bird to mask refuseniks

(CNN) – It’s the kind of advertisement wearing a mask that you’d expect: a cute older woman in what appears to be a homemade flower mask that shows what is expected of us.

But where Berlin’s new campaign image takes a different turn, that’s what it does: give the camera the bird.

“Up to those who do not wear a mask – we adhere to the corona rules,” says the ad, which was launched in September and has now gone viral and is causing a sensation among the notoriously direct citizens of the German capital.

The advertisement is part of a campaign the city will run for six months through March 2021, starting with advertisements on public transport.

Some of the ads like this one are image based. others are entirely textual. One reads: “Liberté. Egalité. Charité?”

But it is the image of the woman flicking the Vs that caught the public eye.

Christian Tänzler, spokesman for Visit Berlin, who is behind the advertisement, told CNN that the goal of the image is to get people to pay attention.

“Most people in Berlin respect the rules, but there is a minority who don’t and they risk the lives of others – older people and vulnerable communities. We wanted to pay attention to this problem.” he said.

The Berliners are known for being direct – and that’s exactly what they want.

Berlin humor

“For the entire campaign, we chose the language that people understand. We didn’t want to say you have to do this, we wanted to get their attention and we wanted to do it with Berlin humor,” he said.

And while he says some people – mostly those unable to wear masks for medical reasons – have complained, most of the feedback has been positive.

“People say it’s good that you identify the problem,” he says. “With this campaign we want to save lives.

“Infection rates are rising very quickly and we need to be careful to get through the next wave.”

Masks are mandatory in the German capital for shopping and public transport. And with cases cropping up in a dreaded second wave, the government is also considering a curfew.

The city is also producing advertisements in English, Turkish and Arabic and will soon publish a mural and live paintings in the city’s squares.

And if you think the old lady who turned the bird over was too much, be forewarned – more could come.

“The next pictures will be more humorous,” said Tänzler. “Not old ladies anymore, but something you’ll laugh at.”

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