A recent video from the EU’s Director General for Enlargement caused a bizarre uproar last week when it was accused of being racist and promoting old stereotypes.
The video can be seen here (alongside a comical article on the subject from the UK’s Daily Telegraph).
It is reasonably funny that the video, designed to promote the EU as a force for good and unity, can be subject to this sort of criticism. After the video went viral and almost everyone voiced their opinions on it the clip was taken offline by the ultra risk-averse DG Enlargement, squandering the €120,000 cost of producing it. Indeed the money spent is a much bigger issue than the video itself.
The content of the video is peculiar, and people’s initial prudishness regarding it was not without reason. The film, (imitating Kill Bill) shows three men from ethnic minorities using martial arts skills apparently preparing to fight a white woman representing Europe. When she multiplies herself to form a circle around the men, they drop their weapons and her yellow clothes turn into the 12 stars of the EU. Some eagle-eyed Youtube commentators (the reasoned voice of debate in 2012) said they represented Europe dominating the main players of the so-called ‘BRIC’ countries, even though it is a complete nonsense, and you have to be quite imaginative to see it as racist.
Stefano Sannino, Director General of Enlargement, was apologetic, saying the choice of people who bowed down to ‘Europe’ represented different martial arts rather than cultures. The fact that the usual risk-averse and politically correct people that work in media and communication never picked up on these pitfalls is also surprising.
Strangely enough, it was definitely the best PR DG Enlargement has ever had, and they got better media coverage results than if they spent that money on ads or other PR, so they ultimately win. As someone whose job it was to promote DG Enlargement, I can say that this probably worked better than the millions they have spent before. Indeed, in an environment when the so-called ‘antis’ dominate discourse about the EU, it’s ironic that more and more people have now been exposed to media promoting the work of DG Enlargement because of a strangely put together video that a few people misinterpreted. Indeed more people watched this video on Youtube over a much nicer and classier video in the same campaign which was aimed at an older audience.
Overall, it was a rather pointless storm-in-a-teacup, but exposed some interesting things about how people engage with the EU and the importance of the European Commission getting the strategic communications right. It will undoubtedly be in any future presentations about how to handle viral media and, as an EU spokesman said “We have to think about this internally and see what is the best way forward. Because it is necessary to be informed about Europe.”