A Turkish cosmetics company committed—in nonadvertising speak—a bit of a marketing no-no when it used a picture of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a recent ad campaign. The company, in an attempt to hawk its hair removal products, repurposed a picture of the al-Qaida leader accompanied by a caption urging Turkish men to act now. “The ad for the hair removal product reads, in Turkish, ‘Waiting won’t get rid of that hair!’ or, more literally, ‘The hair will not go away because you keep waiting!’ ” according to Turkey’s English-language paper, Hurriyet Daily News.
The image of KSM, as Vox points out, is ubiquitous, and the picture—taken when KSM was captured in Pakistan in 2003—was for many years the only known photo of the terrorist leader who is currently a prisoner in Guantánamo. The company said they used the photo “for his hair, not terrorism” and employed the meme-defense to explain the screw up to the Hurriyet Daily News.
“We didn’t know that he was a terrorist. This image is in popular use in Turkish memes on the Internet. The guy is quite hairy, so we thought his body was a good fit for our ad,” Mehmet Can Yıldız, a representative for the cosmetics company, told Hürriyet via phone on Nov. 4. Yıldız said the company had discovered the image on İnci Sözlük, a Turkish online social community website that can be described as Turkey’s answer to 4chan.org. “Several popular caps [humorously captioned images] were produced with his photo. Most were related to insomnia,” he added. “We didn’t want to imply anything political. We didn’t know that it could become an international story. I repeat: We featured him for his hair, not terrorism,” Yıldız said.