An advertising campaign launched by eMAG, Romania’s biggest online retailer, to mark 30 years since the fall of the communist regime and starring 102 years old philosopher Mihai Șora, has stirred fiery debates in social media.
In the commercial, Șora tells a story about how, when he was 30, the installation of the communist regime stole his freedom and how he now celebrates 30 years of freedom. “Freedom every day,” is the campaign’s slogan.
Mihai Șora is one of the promoters of the #rezist movement in Romania and an active participant in the protests against the government and the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), considered by many an heir of the Communist Party.
Some criticized Șora’s appearance in this campaign, saying that he was not a victim of the communist regime, as suggested by the commercial, and even worked for the regime in his youth. Various commentators accused the advertising agency that produced the spot, Papaya Advertising, for mystifying the historic truth. However, others jumped to defend Șora and said he didn’t deserve to be attacked like this and portrayed as a beneficiary of the communist regime.
With all the controversy around it, the campaign became viral. Launched on October 1, the campaign’s video had over one million views on Youtube and over 150,000 views on Facebook. Thousands of negative as well as positive comments were posted on YouTube and on the Facebook pages of eMAG, Mihai Șora, and Papaya Advertising.
Mihai Șora’s story in the commercial sounds like this: “I was 30 years old when life stopped, when the curtains fell and walls started to be erected. I was 30 when they sentenced all to fear, and our children to hunger and cold. They sentenced us to darkness, a blackout from which many tried to escape, but few made it. I was 30 when I lost the thing I held most dear: my freedom. Allow me to celebrate it now, 30 years after winning it back, a thing that I have been doing every day, since then. Happy birthday, my dears!”
Some accused Șora of hypocrisy, bringing up his communist past. “I hate lies and imposture. When at 30 you were a member of the French Communist Party, when at 32, in 1948, you were returning as a member of a communist party in the newly installed Popular Republic of Romania, from where the persecuted ones were trying to escape, when your first job after repatriation was, for 3-4 years, in the Foreign Affairs Ministry led by Ana Pauker, after the purge of Neagu Djuvara, Constantin Karadja or Alexandru Paleologu, when for 15 years you were editor in chief of the State Publishing House for Literature and Art, while Blaga or Arghezi were marginalized and Noica was in prison, don’t you tell us how you suffered under communism!” 43-year old philologist Adrian Papahagi wrote on Facebook.
Others posted similar messages, some more moderate, others even more virulent. Meanwhile, there were also many voices who defended Șora. “The inhuman splattering of thinker Mihai Sora has saddened me. Everything has a limit,” Romanian writer Mircea Cartarescu wrote on Facebook. “If his books don’t impress you, if you don’t give a dime on his civic attitude in recent years, at least his gray hair should make you ashamed. None of us will ever reach his age or wisdom,” Cartarescu added.
Șora, who is very active in social media (has almost 200,000 fans on Facebook), reacted in a Facebook post with a call to conciliation (Dear children, if it's Monday, let's not fight!), telling a story from his childhood and promising to tell more stories about his youth under the communist regime, about his appearance in this commercial and about “what fiction is and what the historical truth means.”
The owner of Papaya Advertising, the agency that created the spot for eMAG, lashed at those who went so far as to vandalize a banner with Mihai Șora. “You don’t have the right to throw mud at this 102-year old gentleman, who protested in the cold so that your rights remain intact,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
Papaya Advertising and its owner Robert Tiderle are among the non-conformists of the local advertising market. The agency has created several campaigns that went viral in recent years, which also have political, social or educational connotations. Among their famous spots are those for Save Rosia Montana and for the Wisdom of the Earth (Cumintenia Pamantului) fundraising campaign. Papaya also worked for many years with state-owned lender CEC Bank, which ended its collaboration with the agency in early 2017, after Robert Tiderle publicly expressed his support for the anti-government protests in Victoriei Square.
(Photo source: Mihai Sora Facebook page)
At 101, Romanian philosopher Mihai Șora is one of the most recognizable figures of the protests that have been taking...