The ad isn’t exactly subtle. Blurred shapes of a man and a woman move behind a frosted window, as the sounds of sex and gentle guitar music play in the background. After roughly a minute, the words appear, “For a European association at every level”—from the government to the bedroom.
The advertisement for the European parliamentary elections, which end on Sunday, is the work of Germany’s satirical national party, Die Partei. In the last German election, this team of Stephen Colbert-like figures received a small fraction of the vote, and now they’re taking their mock campaign across the continent. Around Berlin, for instance, they’ve been posting campaign ads on lamp posts and walls that read, “Hands off German titties! No to the EU-Norm-Breast! Yes to Europe, no to Europe! Die Partei.”
In this election, however, the racy ads aren’t just coming from satirists; more than a few parties have put out ads that look more like something from The Onion than from a sober, serious campaign. There’s a Czech video that promotes sex breaks at work and a Danish cartoon that tries to entice youth voters with a dolphin-riding, hipster-decapitating sex maniac. In Germany, there’s even a word for it, sex-wahlspot, which translates to “sex election ad.” Go figure.
One reason for the risqué and ridiculous advertisements? Though some 382 million people are expected to vote to fill the 751 seats in the European Parliament, in some countries at least, there’s a sense of apathy, even boredom surrounding the campaign. “Once we have a place in the European Parliament, we will sit down and think about how we transform this continent,” said Martin Sonneborn, the satirical Die Partei candidate, in an interview with a Berlin newspaper. “One thing I can promise: It will not be worse.”
This campaign isn’t the first time that European spin doctors have dabbled in sexy political ads. Austria’s Green Party put out an advertisement at the end of last year promoting equality that featured some steamy bedroom scenes. And back in 2009, Libertas—a now defunct Irish political party—put out photos of a model painted in blue with stars on her nipples holding a sign that read, “We demand exposure.”
The latest sexy election ad to make headlines is a 51-second video by the youth group of the Czech Social Democrats, which shows a blond woman who disappears into a back room for a sex break at work. Ostensibly, the video was meant to promote the party’s employment platform, though at least some critics found it offensive.
The controversial spot followed a deeply NSFW video put out by the Danish Parliament, which was trying to get young voters interested in the election. The video featured a badass, vengeful character called Voteman who, in grindhouse style, rides dolphins from his seaside lair to kick the crap out of non-voting hipsters. As one of the ad’s creators said in an interview: “If you really think it’s important to get first-time voters, and you have done everything else, then you have to be prepared to do something different.”
It remains to be seen whether doing something different is a turn-on or a turn-off.