Detergent manufacturer Procter & Gamble has managed to create a whole lot of tension in Germany after launching a new label design, complete with a neo-Nazi code emblazoned front and center. Seething with rage, German consumers have taken to the internet, posting pictures online of the offending detergent boxes, some of which feature a large number “88” on a white soccer jersey.
So what’s the problem?
Well, quite understandably, the use of Nazi slogans in public is banned in Germany. So, in a display of equal parts bigotry and innovation, neo-Nazis often use code speak whenever they feel like waxing rhapsodic about Hitler and hatred and goosestepping and stuff. In neo-Nazi code speak, 88 is kind of a big deal. Neo-Nazis love to use the number 88 to represent the phrase “Heil Hitler,” on account of “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
Similarly, “18” is used to stand for “A.H.” or Adolf Hitler.
In a twist that straddles a razor thin line between really poor luck and equally poor taste, Procter and Gamble released a smaller bottle of the same detergent, this time with a big fat number 18 taking center stage on the label. To reiterate, shoppers all across Germany today wandered into their favorite corner store and got to see a bunch of big, colorful bottles of liquid laundry detergent with the names “Ariel 18 (Adolf Hitler)”, standing cheek by jowl with nearly identical, but much larger boxes of the same detergent in powder form, stamped “Ariel 88 (Heil Hitler)”.
The people of Germany, not exactly known for being a whimsical lot even under normal circumstances, were anything but amused by the neo-Nazi endcap displays.
Procter and Gamble is now apologizing and scrambling to cease all shipments of the offending detergent boxes just as fast as they can. They’ve also released an offical statement that “any false connotations” were unintentional. P&G spokesperson Gabi Hassig said the “88″ and “18″ designations were meant to convey how many load of laundry a buyer could do with one package, and had nothing to do with codes, neo-Nazi or otherwise.
“We very much regret if there are any false associations and distance ourselves clearly from any far-right ideology,” company representative Gabi Hassig said in her statement.
Several hours ago, spokeswoman Melanie Schnitzler confirmed that the company has stopped shipping the offensive detergent, in both its powdered and liquid form. Meanwhile, German shopowners are still advised not to display any product featuring neo-Nazi codes, inadvertent or otherwise.