As the events of the Arab Spring continue to convulse Syria, bus companies in London and Edinburgh are still running insensitive tourist adverts which make fun of last year’s uprising in Tunisia, well over a month after the BBC first reported on the controversy.
The adverts, produced for the country’s tourist board by the Dubai-based agency Memac Ogilvy, feature a series of ironic slogans referring to the recent unrest, in which at least 200 people were killed. In one, a picture of a semi-naked woman enjoying a massage is accompanied by a joke about police brutality:
“They say that in Tunisia, some people receive heavy-handed treatment.”
Another shows a picture of an archaeological site with the phrase “They say Tunisia is nothing but ruins.”
According to the Advertising Standards Agency, eleven complaints have been received about the ads, but the ASA Council has decided not to investigate. A formal complaint was made to Lothian Buses at the weekend, but the company has yet to respond.
Interviewed last month, the managing director of Memac Ogilvy tried to defend the campaign:
“The idea was to be provocative to address possible fears around the issue of the Arab spring.”
We decided to test this ingenious strategy with some ideas of our own:
“They say that in Tunisia, everything is a stone’s throw away.”
“Djerba’s gulf wind is so bracing.”
“They say that in Tunisia, the party scene’s on fire.”