Italy Can't Seem To Get "Fertility Day" Ads Right

Italy has stepped into another quagmire of controversy with its second "Fertility Day" ad. To encourage births, the first ad showed a woman with a timer, implying that her child-bearing days are numbered. The caption read, "Beauty has no age. But fertility does." People took offense: some felt it was insulting to people who had trouble conceiving; others felt it encouraged people to procreate regardless of their situation (e.g., no partner or job). The latter may particularly sting because Italy was a high youth unemployment rate: 35%.

Italy FertilityThe newest ad is deemed racist. Two white couples are featured at the top of a brochure photo, looking happy and healthy. Below this picture is a group of people, including a Black person, smoking marijuana.

Oddly, the bottom photo is similar to one used by Maricopa County Attorney's Office to discourage heroin use in Arizona.

Contrasting people of different races is never a good idea. In a public service announcement earlier this year, the American Red Cross was similarly criticized for showing White people behaving well and people as color behaving badly around a swimming pool.

At first, the Italian health ministry denied the criticism: "The photos represent a homogeneity of people, as is the multi-ethnic society in which we live. Racism is in the eye of the beholder." But the group has since come around: the pamphlet has been removed, as had the first ad.

Italy has the lowest birth rate in the EU, so having a campaign is understandable, but the approach isn't working.

Discussion Starters:

  • What's your view of the ad? Do you find it offensive? Can you see how others might?
  • Compose a different ad that might help Italy meet its fertility goals.