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.”

Pretty tasteless. Get in touch on Twitter if you have any other ideas, or tweet the Tunisian Tourist Board here.

  1. Daniel Rhodes-Mumby says:

    They’re in Manchester as well. I’m glad I’m not the only one to find them offensive – although I enjoy black humour, these aren’t even attempts at comedy; they’re simply rampant and cynical commercialism.

  2. LaughingHappyTUNSIAN says:

    I am a young TUNISIAN adult and I have a TUNISIAN family. Although I may not live in TUNSIA at this time, I know what it was like during the revolution as I was told by my TUNISIAN cousins and TUNISIAN aunties and TUNISIAN uncles. It was grim and horrible, bloody and hellish but we succeeded and triumphed. We got rid of Ben ALi and his corrupt RCD party and more. And all this from the country that in the rest of Arab nations eyes was the one least likely to revolt. HAHA!!! Oh how wrong they were.
    It was the social media that started us off towards our revolution and it is the social media that is what we shall primarily focus on to keep our country going. We need tourists to allow us to grow. We need tourists to keep people in jobs. We need tourists to keep the money flowing. We need tourists. This is just one of many ways that the country is using to show that we have revolted and made our people happier, better and healthier. This is just one way to show that we are a safe country with none of our hotels, beaches or touristic sites hurt by recent times.
    I, my dad, my uncles, my aunties and my cousins LOVE these adverts. Yes they may remind us of the recent happenings, but they are good clear funny adverts that show of our good parts. The Roman remains at Dougga, the hammams that we use, the beaches we have. The irony is clever and well done.
    Finally I want to say well done to the bus companies for being brave souls by putting up these adverts with no idea what the response maybe to them. I love them. They are great so keep them please. In times of hardship laughter is a good remedy.
    (TUNSIA needs you)
    LOVE theLaughingHappyTUNSIAN

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


Comments are limited to 1000 characters.