diesel-abortion-pills-ad.pngUpdate: We have now received an official statement from Diesel, confirming that they have absolutely no involvement in the material discussed in this post. The statement reads thus:

"Diesel SpA has today become aware of the website "www.dieselforwomen.com" (including press material and social media profiles) which are advertising and promoting under Diesel's name a fake campaign called "Misopolis" with topics focused on abortion and women's rights.

Diesel SpA declares to have absolutely no involvement in "www.dieselforwomen.com" site and this campaign, and is currently investigating to clear responsibilities"

We have left our original post on the Misopolis website below, as regardless of who wrote it, we stand by our opinions on the author's methods. We would however stress that the material has nothing to do with the Diesel brand, and does not reflect the beliefs of the company.

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I had to re-read the 'press release' purporting to be from Diesel this morning several times before sitting down to write this post, initially believing it to be a sick early April fool's joke, then starting to seriously question whether the 'Misopolis' campaign is for real. Under the strapline 'Abortions for successful living' the campaign, if it's genuine, is possibly the most ill-advised piece of advertising I've ever seen. I sincerely hope it is a spoof - as reports suggest - and if so, would ask Diesel to contact me and let me know as soon as possible: we are doing out best to contact Diesel in the meantime.

So what's the campaign all about?

Based on the 1920s classic Metropolis and set in a fictional factory, Misopolis appears to be a reaction against the religious right and abstinence movement (the name is taken from misoprostol; one of the drugs used in early-term abortions). On entering the campaign microsite, visotors are told:


"We at Diesel have a stupid dream. What if we gave our female factory workers the same rights as successful people? A factory where they decide over their own bodies. Where they can have happy accidents without consequences. A factory for only the brave"

Seems a reasonable enough sentiment - albeit one in a HUGELY unexpected context. But it goes on: a few further choice quotations from the campaign include:

"Abortion pills. A gift from God"

"Say goodbye to coat hangers - they suck for doing abortions but they're good for hanging our clothes"

WTF?

We can see what's being attempted here: it's a sort of "reaction piece" to the increasingly powerful pro-abstinence movement that's gaining ground in the States:  a tongue-in-cheek rejection of it intended to resonate with liberal-leaning women. The abstinence movement is one I personally find dangerous and backward, but fundamentally a matter of choice and not a topic to make light of in an advert. However I would never identify with these ads, and wonder just whose approval they are trying to gain with their odd idea.

The ads are clearly designed to court controversy and 'go viral' and you might well argue that this article is itself just rising to the bait - but I honestly don't think that they will get the type of notoriety they wanted from trivialising such a sensitive topic, spoof or not. All they are going to do is alienate anyone who believes in the causes they are affecting to promote: It really cheapens what is an important and timely message.

Let's get one thing straight: nothing being stated here is in itself offensive: coat hangers do indeed 'suck' for performing abortions, and it is of course important that all women should have access to the same reproductive health services, no matter what their social standing: the provision of safe abortions for women everywhere is a hugely important global concern, and is unfortunately far from universal even today.

When it comes to getting difficult messages across to an audience with divided views, presentation is key: you have to be able to win over your audience on both extremes of the spectrum. The very last thing the pro-choice movement needs is to give ammunition to those who would label its members irresponsible, pleasure-seeking and sex mad (see 'Sluts for Choice' as an example of another group that arguably did more harm to its alleged cause than good), so I can only assume that whoever made these commercial pieces did not have its best interests at heart.

Frankly, I think an apology is in order. What do you think?

Caveat: we are still trying to work out whether it really is Diesel behind this campaign or if it's spoof. Reports suggest the domain in question is actually registered to human rights activists and not Diesel. We're waiting for an official statment and will update once we can confirm either way.