Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara once said, “We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.” And clearly what he had in mind was versatile and contemporary rental space in Bristol.
According to a passerby’s photo making the rounds on Twitter, a new mixed-use development called The Cigar Factory is using Guevara’s famous image (with added cigar and sunglasses) to promote its available office space and apartments. The tagline: “A revolutionary place to live and work.”
Predictably, this appropriation of the anti-capitalist icon is not going over so well on social media.
Bristol resident George Rowland snapped a picture of the outdoor ad promoting the location and described it on Twitter as “the absolute worst marketing material for shitty luxury flats.” The tweet exploded in popularity, generating more than 11,000 likes and nearly 4,000 retweets in 48 hours.
WGH Properties is not the first company to make dubious use of the Argentine-born revolutionary’s image. During a 2012 Consumer Electronics Show presentation, Mercedes-Benz chairman Dieter Zetsche introduced the company’s new car-sharing program, with the statement that some “still think that car-sharing borders on communism … but if that’s the case, viva la revolucion.”
Accompanying the statement was an image of Guevara with a Mercedes-Benz logo on his beret.
As Mercedes-Benz discovered, the problem with invoking such a polarizing figure is that it angers both those opposed to appropriating his image and those offended by the figure himself. In the case of Mercedes-Benz, the Daily Mail reported that “anti-Castro activists” started petitions against the company in protest.
It’s unclear if WGH has heard any direct complaints for its Cigar Factory billboard—Adweek has reached out to the property firm for comment—but it’s clearly struck a nerve with viewers on social media, bringing along plenty of negative attention and mockery.
The source image for both The Cigar Factory’s illustration and the Mercedes-Benz altered photo was the famous portrait of Guevara taken by Cuban photographer Alberto Díaz “Korda” Gutiérrez. That photo became the subject of numerous lawsuits by Gutiérrez, and later his daughter, over its commercial use in advertising and PR campaigns, including a 2001 Smirnoff campaign.
It is unclear if WGH obtained permission to use Guevara’s likeness for the ad, but given the source photo’s restricted licensing, that seems unlikely. We will update this story if we hear back from the property firm.