Does this work?

by Eszter Hargittai on September 13, 2007

Here’s another find from my time in Switzerland, this time the Zürich Airport.


Approximate translation: “Pirating and counterfeiting is a bad sport: no rules, many fouls, only losers.”

This may actually sound better in English. Does “loser” have that extra connotation in German as it does in English? I didn’t think it did.

In any case, is an airport such a helpful place to put this, especially right near the business lounge in a relatively secluded area? Is any place a helpful place to put this? (I know there is a huge literature on the effectiveness of ad campaigns in various areas. I don’t know if there is any in this particular one.)

I saw this ad somewhere else, too, but I forget where. Have you seen ads of this sort elsewhere?



Henry (not the famous one) 09.13.07 at 1:43 pm

No rules? What a nightmare!

Just how is that supposed to scare/coax us into compliance with licensing restrictions and the like?


neil 09.13.07 at 2:18 pm

The German might not have the punch of “loser” but “Raubkopien” sounds like a much more serious transgression than the comical ‘piracy.’


"Q" the Enchanter 09.13.07 at 2:45 pm

According to my wife, ‘Versager’ might have been better. Conveniently, though, have also taken to borrowing…’loser’ (just capitalize and add accent).


"Q" the Enchanter 09.13.07 at 2:46 pm

Er, “*the Germans* have…”


jaywalker 09.13.07 at 2:53 pm

If there are no rules, can there be fouls? If everybody loses, why are people willing to play?


Flippanter 09.13.07 at 3:07 pm

The same poster is seen on the trains.


dsquared 09.13.07 at 3:23 pm

I’d guess btw that the Swiss angle would be more about counterfeiting and piracy of watches and luxury goods rather than software or music. (or potentially pharmaceuticals which are also a big industry in Switzerland, but your average business class traveller would be more tempted to pick up a dodgy Vuitton handbag while on a trip than a handful of counterfeit pills. Except viagra maybe. Now watch me get caught by the spam filter).


Philip Hunt 09.13.07 at 3:26 pm

If there are no rules, can there be fouls? If everybody loses, why are people willing to play?

Because the advert is a lie. The Internet has brought the marginal cost of copying down to almost zero, and it is impossible for unauthorised copying to be prevented, without greatly restricting the utility of the net — something no government will do, since it would seriously harm the economy.

Thus unauthorised copying cannot be prevented, and business models that require copying to be difficult/expensive are obsolete. The content cartels know this in their bones, and they are scared.

Hence their increasingly shrill rhetoric; for example the MPAA recently said that it is not legitimate for the Pirate Party to stand for elections.


eszter 09.13.07 at 3:32 pm

Thanks for the help with German.

Good questions, Jaywalker.


tps12 09.13.07 at 3:59 pm

Obviously, the absence of rules is extremely frightening, to a German.


engels 09.13.07 at 4:06 pm

No rules? What a nightmare! Just how is that supposed to scare/coax us…

You’re obviously not German :)


engels 09.13.07 at 4:07 pm

(Damn, tps12 already made that joke.)


Ciarán 09.13.07 at 4:10 pm

Have you seen ads of this sort elsewhere?

Does this count?


Matt Kuzma 09.13.07 at 4:22 pm

Isn’t the success of PSAs somehow predicated on them not being a giant sack of lies? This is in the same camp as the “you wouldn’t steal a car…” arguments that just don’t ring true in any way.


"Q" the Enchanter 09.13.07 at 4:45 pm

Speaking of the rule-following ways of Teutons, I remember once when I was living in Regensburg I became impatient with a seemingly interminable traffic light, so I decided to cross. Across the way a young boy (about, oh, 7 or 8) looked on with muted disapproval, and as I approached, he said to me (in German, with flat affect), “You must not cross against the traffic signal.”

I suppressed a “Jawohl!” and moved along.


derek 09.13.07 at 4:46 pm

I love it when giant corporations tell me to play fair with them.

But I thought “no rules” was what giant corporations liked?


Knecht Ruprecht 09.13.07 at 5:01 pm

Have you seen ads of this sort elsewhere?

Arrivals area of Paris Charles DeGaulle is full of them. Interestingly, the adverts tend to emphasize counterfeit clothing and handbags rather than software and media, as the luxury goods industry has particular salience in France.


Stuart 09.13.07 at 5:14 pm

Q, I have had the same in the UK from an approx 8-9 year old kid to his mother when I crossed over while the lights were green (but there was no traffic visible in either direction at all), so not sure it is limited to Germany, but more specific to kids that haven’t got to the point that they question that everything their parents tell them is absolutely true in all circumstances.


engels 09.13.07 at 5:40 pm

And to be fair, I’ve never heard of this happening in Germany.

It is a cautionary tale for any traveller – distinguished historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto tried to cross the road while in Atlanta for the conference of the American Historical Association, only to find himself in handcuffs and surrounded by armed police.


abb1 09.13.07 at 5:46 pm

Germans are anarchists compare to Swiss.

German autobahns have no speed limit; in Switzerland it’s 120km/hr, and there are, I believe, 17 speed cameras on the 65km stretch of highway between Lausanne and Geneva. And that’s French-speaking Swiss, often criticized for their lightheadedness.


jaywalker 09.13.07 at 6:08 pm

Giving my alias, I have to join the sub-discussion. Short answer: Jaywalking requires experience in traffic reading most children lack. I jaywalk often (a sensible and practical strategy in European cities), but when there are children around, I simply do not.

Peculiar to Germany is an extreme reluctance to jaywalk even if there is no motor traffic anywhere in sight. Patiently, most Germans wait at empty crossings. That’s discipline.

Abb1: If the Swiss need that many controls, I suggest it speaks against your claim. I propose it is a cheap form of sin taxation.


Seth Finkelstein 09.13.07 at 6:31 pm

Actually, quite a few of the “big” pirate enterprises have businessmen funding them. The media often doesn’t tell this story, since it’s much more complicated than kids-who-want-for-free. But Napster, for example, had venture-capital investors.

So the sign-placement is nowhere as irrational as might be naively thought.


Henry (the naive and mostly non-German one) 09.13.07 at 6:32 pm

As for “reading traffic,” I think it has to do more with what kids are expected or allowed to do than with their cognitive skills or lack thereof. The Opies reported on the game “Last Across” that children in the UK were playing in the 1950s, in which the goal was to (1) run across a busy street and (2) be the last one to get to the other side. Points would be deducted if you actually got hit by a car in the process IIRC.

Now I suppose others could argue (turning your argument about the Swiss upside-down) that this game would not even exist if these kids had not been instilled with a healthy respect for rules, making a game that flouted those rules at great personal risk all the more exciting. Makes sense, I guess.


onymous 09.13.07 at 6:42 pm

#16 amazes me: I jaywalk anywhere in the US, and wouldn’t expect the law ever to be enforced.

Crossing from Italy to Switzerland is entertaining: in the course of a short trip you see a change from people freely running across a street wherever they like, to people who will glare and mutter at you if you cross against the signal with no traffic in sight.


Sam 09.13.07 at 7:03 pm

It might go well in downtown Beijing…


Jacob Christensen 09.13.07 at 7:05 pm

Just to derail this completely: In Sweden, it is
illegal to walk against red light. But you can’t get punished for it. (Actually, cars have to stop at pedestrian crossings, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a driver was sentenced for hitting a pedestrian walking against the red light) The Danes, on the other hand, obey the force of the red light.

In Danish and Swedish “loser” (“taber”/”förlorare”) has the same double meaning as in English.

Pirating – boy, that is one h%&! of an issue in Swedish politics right now. But I can’t recall seeing posters of this kind.


Henry (the now chastened and law-abiding one) 09.13.07 at 7:22 pm


The cops ticket (and, when Darryl Gates was Chief of the LAPD, sometimes arrested) for jaywalking here in Southern California. The most famous jaywalking case was when the LAPD arrested some churchgoers as they crossed the middle of a street to go to church; a fracas ensued.

This policy may reflect the primacy of the car over the pedestrian here–the Sunset Strip riots of the mid-60s had something to do with the fact that you would get a ticket for loitering if you were a teenaged pedestrian, but not if you were a teenaged driver.


Henry (not the famous one) 09.13.07 at 7:26 pm

Last comment–I promise

I knew the revolution was not at hand in 1970 when I went to Ward Circle in NW DC to protest the invasion of Cambodia. Some American University students had blockaded the circle to stop traffic and one particularly adventuresome student was urging all of his peers to cross against the red light. They didn’t.

Of course, during the Cultural Revolutions some ed Guards wanted to change Red to go and Green to stop. Don’t know if they ever did.


jacob 09.13.07 at 9:55 pm

Peculiar to Germany is an extreme reluctance to jaywalk even if there is no motor traffic anywhere in sight. Patiently, most Germans wait at empty crossings. That’s discipline.

I have had the same experience in downtown Toronto, where I was the only person to cross against a light when there was no vehicular traffic to speak of. In the Maritimes (well, Halifax, at least) there is a similar reluctance to jaywalk in the sense of crossing not in a cross-walk, but this is made up for by the vigor with which motorists stop for pedestrians at cross-walks.


mollymooly 09.13.07 at 10:37 pm

I share jaywalker’s refusal to set a Bad Example for kids waiting to cross.

#26 Jacob Christensen: “In Sweden…cars have to stop at pedestrian crossings”: is this noteworthy? The same is true in GB and Ireland. Although not apparently in France; though I have heard (from an unreliable source) that pedestrians knocked down there while jaywalking will receive no sympathy from insurers and little from hospitals.

Re “loser”: there is already double-meaning in “loser” in the sense of “wretched failure of a person”; (1) “one who loses/fails” (opposite: winner) and (2) “one who ought to be lost/ditched” (opposite: keeper).


lw 09.13.07 at 11:12 pm

Some Americans will also simply not jaywalk. San Diego is a city that worships that automobile – virtually no one jaywalks here, and my husband was actually issued an official warning by a police officer, on a ticket and everything, for jaywalking.


skeezix 09.14.07 at 3:45 am

I don’t suppose you got permission to reproduce the ad, did you.


Doug 09.14.07 at 9:30 am

Close to a business lounge is a place where it will be seen by people who will then think, “Hm, glad to see that our awareness campaign is working.”

Unless they know much about how advertising is sold, in which case they will think, “Hm, airport authority couldn’t get a paying customer for this location so they put up our PSA.”


ajay 09.14.07 at 10:10 am

Some American University students had blockaded the circle to stop traffic and one particularly adventuresome student was urging all of his peers to cross against the red light. They didn’t.

Wasn’t it the Swiss about whom Engels (or someone) said that they could never be revolutionaries, because they wouldn’t storm a railway station without buying platform tickets first?
Or shades of Jerry Cornelius driving down the deserted King’s Road, stopping at red lights as the Americans napalm the buildings around him…


Martin Wisse 09.14.07 at 10:19 am

I find I have to force myself to jaywalk as well, whether or not there’s any traffic.

The ad seems pointless, but not as retarded as the tv ad currently doing the rounds in .nl, where you see a sort of very bad Super Mario knockoff with the tag line “original games work better”. Yes, that will really deter people from downloading copies, not knockoffs, of your games.


aracne 09.14.07 at 10:40 am

#35, After buying a copy of Sims2 and finding out the copy protection does not work in laptops (and that means the game does not work in laptops), I assure anyone it is not true.

The pirated copy (and subsequent pirated copies of other EA games) works flawlessly.


des von bladet 09.14.07 at 11:23 am

RE: Cherman jaywalkers.

My Cherman correspondent informs me that crossing the road against pedestrian lights is a traffic offence as serious, in the eyes of the law, as running a red light in a car. Accordingly, you can lose your driving license for it.

That such a law exists and is (in some areas) enforced tells you something about Chermans, but it also explains why they wait for the green ampelmensch.


des von bladet 09.14.07 at 11:25 am

Oh, and I recklessly jaywalked in Berlin, but I would never dream of doing so in the Free and Democratic Republic of the USA. Cherman cops I’d take my chances with; the FDR’s finest, not so much.


Eli Rabett 09.15.07 at 12:23 am

No blood, no foul

(and yes I have been sneered at for crossing against the light at 3 am in German provincial towns where nothing moves after midnight except the drunks and it was the drunks who sneered at me.)

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