What a stinker

Does your protector stink?

Anyone involved in advertising and creative development will tell you that it can be a painful process getting any aspect of a campaign right. From the initial creative strategy to messaging, execution, layouts, branding and, not least, wording.

Being involved in writing advertising copy nearly every day now, I know many of the English pitfalls in wording. But only from an English angle. I’ve never thought about the difficulties of German.

I thank Clemens for pointing out a nasty verbal bear trap in German advertising. Because you can stick so many words together in German to make longer, more interesting words (a linguistic side to creativity unique to German?), you can sometimes unknowingly create the sort of morphological monstrosity his son found on this poster.

It’s difficult to explain this total goof if you don’t know German, but I’ll try. The bank is trying to say “Protector instinct”. But, taking into account the feminine form of German words (like turning the “male” English word actor into a “female” version, actress), the copywriter working on this ad created one long and ugly word that says “Protector(ess) stinks“.

As we know from studies into selective perception, people looking at this poster will see what they want to see – stinks (stinkt) at the end of the word. The rest they’ll piece together, even if it’s backwards.

Who approved this ad?! Did nobody inside the Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken organisation spot this woeful wunderword?

Alex Woodruff

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One response to “What a stinker

  1. Source: personal photo

    Hi Alex,

    it seems to be that “Volksbank” is reading your business blog because yesterday I found this in Mannheim.

    So they removed the “nasty verbal bear trap” by syllable division. Maybe it is because of the portrait format, maybe they realized the trap.
    It would be interesting to know if they have changed / removed the landscape format posters or not.




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