Thursday, October 27, 2011

Racist Ad of the Week, #2.

(click ad, via)
Hey they're just calling a spade a spade, right? And she does have an ace of spades (fake) tattoo. In defense of Belgrade's Grand Casino, this ad has probably been translated from Serbian for publicity purposes. But, I'm pretty sure somebody at their ad agency Euro RSCG speaks English well enough to know what an oopsie that headline is. Maybe they just didn't care. Previously: Racist Ad of the Week #1. Related: six retro racist ads.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always quick to kneejerk. You can cross out that "racist ad of the week, #2". It would have been racist if it was made in the US.

Did you know about the Queen of Spades (Pikovaya Dama) opera by Tchaikovsky? The Queen of Spades is associated with gambling, not just some underground meaning about white women sexually desiring black men that originated in your country (?).

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They also forgot to dress her like Denise Huxtable and surround her with a gaggle of white friends. That makes this even more racist.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me dumb here, but what exactly is racist about this ad?

9:26 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


So what? A "spade" means black person in the English language. Not in Serbian! Jesus Christ. Too much ado about nothing.

The first commenter was right.

And fyi, I am convinced there are MANY native speakers who don't know what queen of spades tattoo means. Not everyone has read the big book of filth like you, or has time to browse regularly Urban Dictionary.

9:51 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

It doesn't merely mean "black person." It's as bad as the "N" word.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cultural ignorance (typical of many Americans) is not an excuse either. Take your wife to that opera.

And stop being so defensive. A spade does not mean nigger in Serbian. The original copy should read Пикова дама, the Serbian for Queen of Spades. This is just a translation.

It is ridiculous to expect all foreign agencies to execute their foreign campaigns in such manner as not to be deemed insensitive or offensive to English speaking people.

10:01 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

Tell that to every black American woman who sees this ad. That opera was written in the 19th century.

10:08 AM  
Blogger carefreemistress said...

The ad is written in English, not Serbian, so the use of a black model is unfortunately bound to offend some English-speaking people. If Americans are so ignorant, why do foreign ads use our language?

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Do YOU know any white people that play Spades?

(...not helping the case...)

Sorry, racist casino.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How hard would it have been for them to use a white woman, instead of a black one? Wouldn't be here if they did.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>The ad is written in English, not Serbian, so the use of a black model is unfortunately bound to offend some English-speaking people. If Americans are so ignorant, why do foreign ads use our language?<

Here comes another ignorant comment. The ad was not written in English; the ad was translated, accurately, to English. What did you expect the agency to do? Change the original meaning - of spades - to of hearts, so that the ad won't offend black women in American?

Foreign agencies have to translate their work to English, because not that many English speaking people (mostly Americans) speak foreign languages. Spanish does not count.

10:46 AM  
Blogger SpookyLittleGirl said...

I'm pretty sure it's only referring to the fact that this beautiful young woman has a "spade" tattoo on her shoulder. Nothing to see here. Move along.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's only racist in a American context... Hegemony is annoying & as bad as racism.

10:48 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

Euro RSCG is a multinational worldwide agency.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Vinnie said...

I'll have to disagree with you on this one, Mark. This ad would be controversial only if it was to run internationally, and by internationally I mean in English speaking countries, particularly the US. This may or may not be the case. If that's not the case, I have no issues with the ad, aside from being plain boring. As it was previously and rightly pointed out, this is a mere translation. I live in Chicago and here we have a Serbian Queen of Spades bar. They say it's a gambling joint. No black men or women have been seen going in and out of it.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way this ad is inappropriate is if it was targeted at the American market, which I seriously doubt since it's made by a European ad agency. Just because it's a multinational company does not mean it A, is required to known the meaning of a word in a market it is not targeting, or B, has to discard an ad and not use it in a different market even if it knows the meaning. I realize that in a globalized world it is hard to contain campaigns geographically, but come on. This is not intentionally racist in anyway. This is not an unforgivable oversight on behalf of the ad agency. (And please stop saying that 'Spades' is an offensive word in the English language, it's not. It is an offensive term in American culture.)

11:23 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

Spade is also offensive in the UK (less so, but still).

11:26 AM  
Anonymous J said...

The fact that the ad was made in a country other than the States doesn't absolve it of its issues. It would be like saying, "Hey, blackface is super offensive in America but here in Australia it's really cute! Golliwogs..tee hee!"

I bristled at this ad. Sure, a lot of people may not know spade's other meaning since it's an antiquated racial slur but that sure as heck doesn't mean I want to be called one. I also bristled at the idea of the creative process of this ad. I imagine it went something like this: "If this girl was a card, what card would she be? She's Black so...*lightbulb* I got it!" SO LAZY.

So I ask this, why didn't they swap out the spade tattoo for a heart tattoo and call her a the queen of hearts? You know why? Because the queen of hearts would obviously be a redhead. Duh.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Strange Sista's Blog said...

As long as the ad is not run in English speaking countries and therefore references something else altogether I really don't believe it is racist. What I do wonder though is why it is translated into English? Because that's when the questions start to be raised if they plan to run in in English speaking countries then its quite racist.

Oh and since it has been translated into English I'd say your reaction was not knee-jerk, because why translate it into English if its not being run in English speaking countries?

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


How about you read FIRST what the others have said so far about this ad? This applies to all other people who are thinking about commenting.

It may be a pure coincidence that the girl they picked for this photo was dark skinned.

I am someone who is not a native speaker. I studied English linguistics, and I did not know that "spade" meant "nigger".

Speaking of this, have you read the book The Human Stain by Philip Roth? Anthony Hopkins starred in the movie, which was brilliant. So we have this professor who was accused of "racism" because he once asked his class "Do they exist or are they spooks?", referring to two black students that never showed up for his lectures.

Spade is like spook. An antediluvian use for black person.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Mach1 said...

For the record, I wasn't aware "spade" had a derogatory meaning. I think this might be a little touchy on the PC side.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Megginson said...

You'd have to have your head up your ass to think it was a coincidence that the "Queen of Spades" is black. We're pretty aware of how black people are often fetishized in European ads (especially fashion) because they are seen as exotic.

All the ads make a lame visual pun on gambling. Some don't seem to translate as well as others, but what other connection is there in that photo? She's one of only two black people in the entire campaign (which is in its entirety on the AOTW Facebook page:

12:57 PM  
Blogger Tom Megginson said...

Mach1, it's not just the old meaning of the slur "spade". It comes from an old English expression "black as the ace of spades", which itself is simply a connection to the colour of the card suit.

Whether or not the Serbian CD knew "spade" was a specific slur in English, the only connection between the model and the headline is her skin colour. The spade tattoo looks like a lame attempt to strengthen the connection.

They might have gotten away with it, though, if they had left off the tattoo and given the English headline as "Queen of Clubs". It would have been read quite differently by anglophones.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You have your head up your rectum 76,5% of the time. How do I know that? I read your commentaries.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Black British person here

I have never heard of the word being offensive. This isn't a case of willfully ignorant racists pretending not to understand that the n word is offensive. I've never heard this word before and I had no idea what it meant when I saw it linked on jezebel.

Also, the phrase "to call a spade a spade" PREDATES AMERICA, never mind American racism. Are all Americans this stupid?

The phrase "queen of spades" means something specific in Serbia (to do with gambling). So calling her the Queen of Hearts would make no sense. The best thing they could do I suppose is just use a white model, cos you know, that would be the non racist thing to do.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous J said...

Anonymous, I understand your opinion entirely that doesn't mean I have to take your opinion on as my own.

But I have to say, you'd have to be pretty naive to even suggest that is may be down to just a coincidence that they chose to label this girl as queen of spades. If there's one thing I'm sure of is that advertising is never coincidence. And before you blow a gasket and accuse me of "crying racism", I'm not suggesting they labelled her as such with malice.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Megginson said...

Yes you do read them, Anon. Obsessively.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know the meaning of spade, and therefore don't quite grasp the outrage.

However, it seems people are using a reasonable debate as an excuse to insult Americans about how we're ignorant of other cultures and languages.

To generalize a country of 300 million+ people is ignorant.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


How many times does one have to explain to you and all the other critics - over and over and over again - that Queen of Spades has yet ANOTHER meaning, which has to do with GAMBLING. That's why they couldn't say Queen of Hearts. Like the last anonymous wrote, they might have used a white girl. No need to come on here, spouting off even more nonsense, in the pedantic fashion you do. Telling us that "black as the ace of spades" means very black. And here we have queen of spades. Blah blah blah. Not once have I come across that phrase in a book, by the way, and I read mostly late 19th and 20th century literature. And so far several individuals - native speakers - have shared that they were not familiar with that pejorative connotation of spade. Reread my comment about the use of spook in THE HUMAN STAIN novel.

1:51 PM  
Blogger cheeseonearth said...

I agree. All languages and cultures should take USA as their point of reference. If something is offensive to Americans it's offensive to God and the entire humanity. How dare these foreigners have their own cultural references! The US should probably bomb them.

8:07 PM  
Blogger copyranter said...

"Nuke" them, not just "bomb."

8:35 PM  
Blogger paulms said...

I don't knwo if my last comment got through, but i was sent this link by my serbian friend who is the guy who did this campaign, who saw this and asked me what, as an american, i thought spade meant. I told him and he shit himself. Utterly flabbergasted. Begging me to understand he had no idea. Honestly, folks, this is a very american term. Foreignors do not know this. This is a simple error of ignorance not racist at all. Peraonally, i;m laughing my ass off, but my buddy is really shamed by this.

8:44 PM  
Blogger paulms said...

I would also mention, this is the guy who visited me when i lived in Harlem and was the darling of my neighborhood. As a Serbian he adored black american culture and was on cloud 9 to be befriending actual american black people. I've been reading the comments, and really think many folks are misunderstanding the simple fact that foreigners do not know every american term nad not inherently racist. AT ALL. Trust me, if you knew this guy, you would see you're over-analyzing this.

8:56 PM  
Blogger copyranter said...

Did he also create this charming ad from the campaign?

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea that 'spade' was a racially offensive term, and I've been called most of them.

9:55 PM  
Blogger melissa. said...

This is news. I've never heard of this word being used in a derogatory context before - or in any defining way for that matter. It is certainly not used as such in Canada (or at least my part of it I suppose).

I'm honestly curious though... being that it's apparently such a loaded word, how do Americans feel about phrases such as "calling a spade a spade"?

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i tried finding a reason for being racist....i couldn't

1:32 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Huh, I never heard of that as a slur or even slang. OFF TO ASK MY BLACK FRIENDS (of which, I assure you, I surely have many).

3:51 AM  
Anonymous mrjohn said...

-White British person here, I knew that "spade" was used offensively, perhaps it's an age thing.

Whether or not the CD knew the implication is irrelevant, if it is offensive it should be withdrawn.

If the ad was translated it was meant for an international audience, be that the general public or award shows. Someone somewhere should have raised the alarm.

Anyway, they should have used Lemmy, in drag.

6:13 AM  
Anonymous mrjohn said...

I think the fact so many of you are unaware of this usage speaks volumes for the efforts of the older generation to overcome our entrenched racism.

6:16 AM  
Blogger paulms said...

copyranter: Yes, he did. Boobs really piss you off, huh?

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>I think the fact so many of you are unaware of this usage speaks volumes for the efforts of the older generation to overcome our entrenched racism.<

THe fact that you area aware of this usage means that you are an old fart. Don't be jealous of the young people. No body gives a fuck about some antiquated word that no one has been using for decades. The only people familiar with it are those that like to brag about their large lexicons (hint hint Copyranter).

7:43 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

Yes, it's such an "obscure" slur that Gawker's media reporter, who is about 30 years old, reposted the ad:

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>Yes, it's such an "obscure" slur that Gawker's media reporter, who is about 30 years old, reposted the ad:

LMAO. The site says "As Copyranter pointed out".

Didn't you write for Gawker at one point? Of course, they would agree with you! And yeah, the "reporter" must be another nerd.

In any event, you must be happy how this inconsequential non story is driving traffic to your blog. Wasn't that your intention in the first place? You've been playing this game for years. Stirring shit in order to get your blog in the spotlight. Job well done. It must feel good on your ego.


8:13 AM  
Blogger paulms said...

You folks are aware, Serbia is the only place this is being run and the ad is currently runing here as "Dama Pik". It's a fault of the translation. In it's actual form as it's being used here there is no American racist issue.

8:18 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

FYI: that "nerd" reporter is a boxer who could pound the shit out of your ass with one hand tied behind his back. Just like this "nerd" hockey player could.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:31 AM  
Anonymous Gay Lafleur said...

...and speaking of boxer/nerds:

Profiles in Brazen Ignorance: Hamilton Nolan

12:12 PM  
Blogger cheeseonearth said...

@ paulms

>> You folks are aware, Serbia is the only place this is being run

As a North American, I am proudly not aware of what this "Serbia" you speak of is. But, how is that even relevant?! Stop trying to deflect.

@ copyranter

>>"Nuke" them, not just "bomb."

Touche. < Without the un-American-like accent.

4:54 PM  
Blogger copyranter said...

A Blogger post from a douchebag lawyer.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Dumb American said...

Can someone please tell me what the official language in Serbia is? I asked my neighbor, a fellow American, and he said English. If that's so, the ad is indeed racist, and those ignorant Serbians should immediately issue an apology. An apology to all African American women, particularly our First Lady Michelle Obama. First lady = queen? Shocking!

7:38 PM  
Blogger paulms said...

Serbia's official language is Serbian. And the ad is running here in Serbian. It's text reads "Dama Pik" so this entire spade debate is mute and pointless.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two Points:

1. As an American copywriter who has spent most of my professional life working outside of America, I will tell you that it doesn't matter if an ad is written in a local language. If the English translation would be grossly inappropriate, many local residents would find it offensive too. Highly educated locals often study abroad in places like America or England. And a large proportion of expatriates will know the local language. These kind of inappropriate creatives happen - and they cause a minor uproar and are often pulled.

2. That said, I've NEVER heard of "spade" as a racist term. I'm well educated, thirty-something, originally from the very racist American South, have lived in different regions of America as well, am white but some of my family is black, and I find it hard to believe the word is widely held as racist. I grew up surrounded by language like "nigger" and all kinds of slurs. Never "spade". Not even from the elderly who throw around racism like it's candy. Maybe the offensive meaning is a limited regional thing?

12:18 PM  

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