Advert at Gare du Luxembourg, Brussels
Advert at Gare du Luxembourg, Brussels

One of my favourite political books – mentioned on this blog before – is Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff. The idea behind the title is to show what happens when the wrong words are used. You read that title and of course you think of an elephant.

So yesterday I was disturbed to see the advert shown above at Gare du Luxembourg, the railway station next to the European Parliament in Brussels. It’s a large ad, perhaps 5 metres long, illuminated, and paid for by the Commission’s representation in Belgium.

I dread to think of how much the ad cost to make and to display and it gets the messages all wrong.

“Everything is Europe’s fault” starts by making the viewer think everything is Europe’s fault – a catastrophic framing error. Then the four images are just weird. Do people think that social exclusion or the financial crisis are actually the fault of the EU? Perhaps the EU did not do enough in response, but do people think the EU is to blame? Then if you follow the web link – – you get to a bland institutional website of the Commission Representation that bears no resemblance to the advert.

Hopeless. Which firm gets the contracts for rubbish like this?

[UPDATE – 28.6.2010]
Gare du Midi is covered with EU posters just now – pink faces also linking to, and horribly bland posters about the Belgian Presidency of the EU. OK, there is no Belgian government just now, so maybe something interesting was not possible?


  1. My favorite were the huge banners at Brussels Airport to advertise the last EP election – put up in about the only place where knowledge of the election could be assumed to be greater than in the EP itself. It seemed to me to show that the campaign was more about those inside the system building up their own morale than anything trying to increase engagement outside.

  2. @Belguglielmo – it’s a Belgium-only ad campaign…

  3. words fail me. Well nearly. Would an ad agency actually have been involved in this? Or just a printsetters?

  4. Awful, I agree. The link redirects to the webpage of the EU representation office to Belgium, so it means that the ad has been designed for and disseminated only in Belgium.

  5. robert

    Hasn’t the European Commission’s marketing (if not all the EU institutions) always been dreadful? I suspect it’s because the civil servants dictate the content and agencies just create it. It’s time they got in proper marketing and PR professionals.

  6. Fully agree jon…biggest problem is some people are convinced it’s sexy comms!

  7. That’s indeed a perfect case study for Lakoff’s framing theories. Unbelievable…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *