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Category: Politics

Wurstgate: Leveraging right-wing angst to sell more sausage

Christmas is a tough time in Germany. In America, of course, it’s a two-day celebration — the 25th and Black Friday. But here in Germany it’s an entire month of Advent Sundays, Nikolaus and mulled wine-inspired hangovers. So it’s little wonder Teutonic right-wingers are on edge. Even those of us on the left are as well. Last year a group of artists successfully trolled the country’s right wingers into believing Coca-cola (which marketing has fully attached to Weihnachten here) was against the far-right AfD party. What a hoot!

This year, Curry36 is having a go. The chain has already proved its marketing prowess because they give the impression they’re a a currywurst stand that’s been in Berlin since the Kaisers roamed free but in reality it’s only been around since 1980, kind of like David Hasselhoff. But yesterday on Facebook and Twitter, it announced that out of “diverse reasons” it would be renaming its traditional “Christmas Sausage” to “Winter Sausage”.

The reaction was swift and predictable: Right-wingers on social media saw it as just another insidious attack on Christmas, Christians and tradition. Just as with the guerilla Coca-Cola action last year, they and those who would protect the traditional German identity were swift to call for a boycott:

“Well then … luckily there are other snack bars. Happy declining sales. I’m outta here.”

“Too bad, but all the best anyway. We’ll be eating elsewhere in the future.”

(Thanks Volksverpetzer: I screengrabbed yer screengrab)

As the announcement picked up steam, the satire came out as well — there was a great story about a family who, every Christmas, drove through snow and ice to eat the Curry36 Christmas sausage and then took a dozen home in order to have enough to eat under the Christmas tree. Or another suggestion that to please the right, Curry36 could just rename it the “Wehrmachtwurst”. LÖLE, as my German friends say.

The whole trick? Here’s what Curry36 had to say: “Our regulars smelled the roast – pardon, the sausage – immediately: There never was a Christmas sausage and there (probably) will never be a Winter sausage at our place because the classic, organic and vegan versions means there’s already something for every taste.

Radioeins, a radio station, interviewed the man behind the provocation, manager Mirko Grosssman, and every major German media outlet picked up the story, an example of perfect PR and a counterpoint to the Gretagate disaster over at Deutsche Bahn last week. There’s a German saying that everything has just one end except a sausage: It has two. Right-wing snowflakes, unfortunately, seem to have none.

Can’t wait for next Christmas.

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The AfD’s Christmas War Against Cola

Although there are several things that differentiate Christmas in Germany from Christmas in the US, they both have one key character in common: That big red Coca-cola truck, decked to the gills in blinking lights and snaking across an icy highway to bring diabetes to snowy evening landscapes everywhere.

But this year, the Alternative for Germany party, better known as the AfD, is trying to put the brakes on that red and white semi full of sticky awesomeness. Forget about the War on Christmas, this is the War on Cola. And so far it’s Cola: 4 – AfD:0.

That’s because the War on Cola hinges on one thing: The AfD’s ability to be both reliably and relentlessly stupid.

The War on Cola began on Dec. 4 with a misunderstanding. Political artists in Berlin unveiled an anti-AfD advent calendar that offers suggestions on political activism behind every door. Behind door No. 4 (that’s for the 4th of December for those who don’t know about advent calendars), the AFDentskalendar suggests making mock ads for companies to encourage those companies to refute the populist party. And the artists led the way with this billboard, parked on Martin Luther Strasse, a major thoroughfare in western Berlin:

AfD's Christmas War on Cola
Photo from Matthew Borowski’s Twitter.

“For a joyous season, say no to the AfD,” it reads. The poster looks real enough and many took to Twitter to congratulate Coke on its bold move, even though Coke had nothing to do with the campaign. The modified poster with the coked up St. Nick apparently hasn’t even been used for several years, but it’s a subtlety lost on most people, especially the AfD. Its members called for a boycott and spilled the Coke they had already bought with their hard-earned reichsmarks.

*despite me disagreeing with their politics, this human does illustrate the Teutonic ability to open a bottle with anything, something I’ve written about before.

And the guerrilla campaign by the artists worked! Coke came out with a laudable response:

Screenshot from Patrick’s Twitter

“Not every fake is wrong,” this tweet by Coke Germany spokesman Patrick Kammerer says, his words feeling like his product tastes: sweet.

The AfD then had an unoriginal idea. They created a digital Pepsi ad atop the Cola ad, rolling in a logo, a Santa in blue and the phrase: “For a joyous season, say yes to the AfD.”

Photo thanks the leftist Volksverpetzer blog, because the original was erased. 

Pepsi was not amused – on Twitter the company said it rejected the “political commandeering of the Pepsi brand” by the AfD and that it would review its legal options. According to Volksverpetzer, the company behind the blue Santa (Widman costumes) also threatened to put some lawyers under the Christmas tree.

For most observers, the War on Cola was getting flat, like that last bit of brown liquid at the bottom of a bottle that’s equal parts cola and backwash, but the AfD didn’t get to be the AfD by leaving brown backwash in the bottle.

Malte Kaufmann, an AfD politician in southern Germany, tried to fire a shot across Pepsi and Coke’s bows by sipping a Fritz Kola openly on Twitter – If there’s a cola startup, then it’s Hamburg’s Fritz, which entered the market in 2003.

The only problem: Fritz came out against the AfD shortly after the federal election in 2017 — long before Kaufmann ever put his lips to one of their bottles:

“The only good alternative,” the tweet reads. Note the use of the word “alternative” and the BTW17 hashtag denoting the September 2017 elections where the AfD turned in a disappointing result. Fritz has had plenty of other pro-everyone ads and graphics, and reposted them after Kaufmann’s attempted cola burn. 

Quickly running out of colas to enjoy after a hard day trying to reintroduce fascism to Germany, one of the most problematic of the AfD’s problematic politicians got involved. The AfD is strongest in the former East Germany, so Bernd Höcke, the problematic politician, sought support from Vita Cola, a former East German brand.

“There are alternatives for everything, not just in politics,” his tweet said. He pointed out that Vita Cola was the market leader in his native state of Thuringia, but Vita wasn’t impressed. 

I would post Vita Cola’s response, but it was the most vanilla of the bunch, saying they weren’t interested in politics — just being open and tolerant. Indeed, in their past they’ve used homosexual themes in their advertising.

The only German cola left for the AfD to claim would seem to rule itself out by its name — Afri Cola. Indeed, a hapless AfD politician did try pull Afri in, and they also pushed back, but it allows me to end this blog with Afri’s bizarre, near-pornographic ads from the ’60s. Nuns? Realy?

In any case, what German cola do you prefer?