The fake Puma ads

Yes, they’re fake. They have no connection with Puma at all. They’re not real

ads tweaked in Photoshop, they didn’t run in Brazilian Maxim, they’re not viral

marketing by a top-secret Puma subsidiary. They’re fakes, and Puma doesn’t like

them one bit. Here’s the official statement, as emailed to me by Peter Kim,

the man in charge of interactive marketing at Puma in Boston:

It has been brought to our attention that several unauthorized, sexually

suggestive advertisements portraying the PUMA brand have been released over

the Internet. We are appalled that images like these would be created and

distributed under the PUMA name. As a brand, we seek to take a unique perspective

toward our advertising in an effort to challenge the boundaries of our industry;

however we would never consider using these tactics. We are in the process

of researching the circumstances and reserve any legal steps available.

What am I talking about? A pair of ads, purportedly for Puma, which hit the

internet just over a week ago. They hit my radar screen via the incomparable

Gawker, and I posted

them on MemeFirst. I didn’t know whether or not they were genuine, but there

was a lot of interest in them: between Gawker and Salon (in a page no longer

available), the MemeFirst page soon garnered more than 10,000 page views.

What’s more, the site which originally posted the pictures went offline for

some reason, prompting MemeFirst to host them itself (here

and here). If you

don’t want to view them at MemeFirst, however, there’s no shortage of other

sites where they’re available (the original seems to be this

one, in Norway).

At this point, Puma started getting in on the act. Various people at the company

seem to have known about the purported ads for well over a week, but it’s only

been in the past couple of days that they started emailing and phoning people.

Soon one of the first venues for discussion of the ads changed

them to something completely different, and the official statement above

started appearing at sites like


I got interested, and sought out Puma myself. (Evidently wasn’t

important enough to hit their radar screen and prompt them to contact me.) I

had a long conversation with Peter Kim, who seems like a very nice chap who’s

well aware of how these kind of viral internet memes spread.

He started out explaining to me that the fake ads constituted trademark infringement,

defamation, and possibly libel, and that "definitely legal action is in

the works". He told me that "it’s a clear-cut case that this is illegal

content," and that if MemeFirst didn’t take the images down, it would face

legal action itself. He even tried to anticipate any argument I might have along

freedom-of-the-press grounds; while saying quite explicitly that he was not

a lawyer, he averred that blogs are "not a media outlet" and that

they are therefore not protected on First Amendment grounds. When I said that

didn’t sound right to me, though, he didn’t belabour the point. "I’m neither

a journalist nor a lawyer," he said. "I’m a web department manager."

Kim seemed pretty straightforward and far from threatening when he told me

that "you can take the stuff down before the machine gets rolling, or you

can choose not to." He was clearly concerned by "dozens of emails"

that he and Puma’s PR people had received from people who thought the ads were

genuine, and who even went as far as threatening lawsuits against Puma on sexual-discrimination

grounds. Certainly, he said, with regard to the person who actually created

these images, "when the truth comes out, it’s not going to be a pretty

picture, because people are pretty miffed about it."

He also seemed to understand that Puma’s PR campaign was something of an uphill

battle. "We are handling it on a case-by-case basis," he said, which

seemed to mean having Peter Kim phone or email any website he came across with

the images. "We’ve decided not to publish a statement on the Puma website."

That decision seemed a bit peculiar to me, and although he was too polite to

say so, I think he thought it a bit odd to. After all, a statement on

isn’t quite as authoritative as one on

But the fact is, there’s really very little that Puma can do. If it does take

legal action against the likes of MemeFirst, it’s only likely to perpetuate

the meme further. What’s more, the extra publicity would only serve to increase

the number of conspiracy theorists who think that this is all a convoluted scheme

dreamed up by Puma itself. As Kim admits, "there’s almost nothing I can

say" to counter the idea that some bright spark walked in to the office

one day and said "OK, let’s create a blowjob ad and then deny it".

The rival theory, of course, is that the whole thing is a creation of Puma’s

arch-rival, Adidas. Kim’s not convinced, though. "I would not want to give

them that much credit," he says. "My first reaction was that it had

to be a Brit."

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48 Responses to The fake Puma ads

  1. Kevin Heller says:

    You can see the other side (not Puma’s) of the legal argument at my site if you are interested.

  2. John says:

    Kevin, maybe it’s time for you to put away the hand lotion and stop looking at the fake Puma ads?

  3. Andrew says:

    So I guess every kid who puts out a spec ad for their book is at risk for “legal action”? That’s retarded. If that was the case, I’d be in A LOT of trouble.

  4. ChrisM says:

    Something I learned in GradSchool a while ago…..There’s No Such Thing As Bad Publicity.

    Excellent example of “viral” marketing

  5. blogs are not a media outlet = lying shithead

    Lying Shitheads = No Sympathy From Me

    Bring on the parody Puma Blowjob Ads, I say. Make the brandname Puma forever inextricably linked with sleazy Blow Jobs in the minds of the world’s public.

    I mean, either he’s a lying shithead or he’s criminally stupid, and I don’t which is worse.

  6. blogs are not a media outlet = lying shithead

    Lying Shitheads = No Sympathy From Me

    Bring on the parody Puma Blowjob Ads, I say. Make the brandname Puma forever inextricably linked with sleazy Blow Jobs in the minds of the world’s public.

    I mean, either he’s a lying shithead or he’s criminally stupid, and I don’t which is worse.

  7. darinsan says:

    Blogs not a media outlet?

    Where has this guy been for the last few years? No one huddles around the radio anymore with their family waiting for the official version of what is happening in the world. Half the news tips I get are from fellow bloggers who have scoured the various news sites on each other’s behalf, the other half from legitimate sources such as BBC or the CBC.

    I’m not insisting my Web site babble is protected by our Charter under Fundamental Freedoms (Canada’s version of the First Amendment), but with more governments clamoring to control what hits my eardrums and eyeballs, I look to real people on the Web for an honest perspective.

    Must agree with ChrisMÛno such thing as bad publicity.

  8. scott says:

    “no such thing as bad publicity”

    not only that, they can deny that they had any part in the ads. All the publicity none of the flak for tasteless ads.

  9. J Chevalier says:

    1. New campaign line devised by Slick Willy for Hillary:

    “His 100 jobs in the hand aren’t worth one of mine in the Pumas.”

    2. darinsan says:

    “Half the news tips I get are from fellow bloggers who have scoured the various news sites on each other’s behalf, the other half from legitimate sources such as BBC or the CBC.”

    BBC=legitimate source?

    Now that’s truly f*****g obscene.

  10. Diana Hsieh says:

    It doesn’t matter if blogs are a media outlet or not, right? Members of the media aren’t the only ones with First Amendment rights, last I checked.

    Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t speak so soon, given that I’m being for completely legal content posted to my blog and web site.

  11. The Rust One says:

    Government should stay out of business affairs!!! Unless it’s this one!!! Government should uphold First Amendment rights!!! But not in this case!!!

  12. Stephen says:

    “1. New campaign line devised by Slick Willy for Hillary:”

    Remember, Bill Clinton was known for wearing New Balance jogging shoes. Why not a parody-of-the-parody ad with the gentleman wearing a dark blue suit, the woman in Monica’s infamous blue dress, and NB shoes in lieu of Puma?

  13. Marc says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but what’s the difference between these “fake ads” and a pornographic photograph that happens to contain Puma shoes? The photos themselves don’t appear to say, “Buy Puma” or even “Visit” or whatever. How is it trademark infringment? Who was defamed or libelled?

    Bloggers assumed these were ads, but I haven’t seen anything in the images that asserts that — it’s just an assumption, based mostly, I’d argue, on the cropping and the placement and lighting of the shoes and the bag. The assumption was wrong, but that doesn’t make the photograph ‘libel’.

    Even if the above arguments are wrong, these pictures definitely seem like parody to me (and thus protected). They have successfully provoked discussion of what the boundaries between product promotion and sexually-explicit material are or should be.

    Puma has to do more than find the photographer to make a case — they also have to find a reason the photographer violated the law. I don’t see it.

  14. Chef Quix says:

    I think that this could very well be an interesting First Amendment case. The whole ‘blogs are not a media outlet and therefore not protected’ idea seems to me to be outdated and in need of change. Perhaps you should contact a lawyer and see what happens.

  15. darinsan says:

    Marc says:

    “Bloggers assumed these were ads, but I haven’t seen anything in the images that asserts that…”

    Marc, I can’t be sure about the quality of the images you have seen, but there are Puma insignia in the bottom right-hand corners of both ads that hint at authenticity, in spite of the images themselves pushing the advertising envelope.

  16. Liz says:

    And since when, exactly, does the First Amendment apply only to “media outlets”?

  17. the heckler says:

    I really doubt this was a premeditated plan. Couldn’t they just be a photo/design project from a college student? If that’s the case would PUMA be able to anything since they were created for educational purposes?

  18. Greg says:

    Whats Puma going to do…pull the picture? Who they going to sue? Me…You…Anyone with the pix? This is wallpaper material!!! Good color and shading…should find the artist and hire him/her/them….whatever…

  19. Robert says:

    So, if I take a photo of somebody wearing Puma clothes, I can be sued for copyright infringement? Or is it the fact that they were passed off as Puma ads that is a problem (in which case a notice to the effect that they are not connected to Puma should get people off the hook)?

  20. Stephan says:

    Puma seems to have no sense of humour at all. Poor people.

  21. FrankyB says:

    The story even hit dutch teletekst, so the word to the general public is out.

  22. LaM says:


    but Nice……….

  23. robw says:

    I would give a lot to see someone make a Chirac blowing Saddam fake of this ad, with an even more prominent PUMA…then see if they sue.

    (Or a Blair blowing Bush. Don’t think I care about Iraq–I just think the French suck on general principles and it was the first political thing that came to mind).

    This whole thing is genius on Puma’s part. Even the fake ‘harassment’ emails. I don’t think they could have done this any better, with the exception of maybe having a fake Maxim page number on the ad.

  24. __^-_ says:

    See if they have’nt got all lawyer style i would have gone and buy some Pumas … i loved the fricking ads !

  25. Nina says:

    Well, it’s free advertising for Puma. The longer the issue gets prolonged, the longer the company stays on a very controversial radar. ANd it’s not all negative. Alot of kids seem to think the ads are cool. I, personally, have no idea what to think.

  26. Laura says:

    I trust that Peter Kim was telling the truth when he released his statement concerning the “fake Puma ads,” although personally, I went shopping for a pair of Pumas after having seen the advertisement. So I think he should be congratulating the genius who took advertising to a new level at par with the youth of today, instead of pretending to be apalled at the supposed infringement of company copyright laws…

  27. MUGUMEN says:



  28. Sonny says:



  29. Giuni says:

    where do I get the poster from?

  30. jen says:

    where can i buy those pumas from teh ad???

  31. heather says:

    the fake ads only make me like puma and the dozens of puma items i, and my friends own even more.

  32. Jess says:

    According to the advertisement of the Puma sneakers, I am truly shocked at this picture of a teenage girl kneeling in front of a man and having white substance on her leg. I only question myself how can this advertisement for simple sneakers have this disturbing picture for selling their brand of sneakers. I heard it was banded from some internet sites and that the advertisement is fake. This advertisement is showing to young teenage girls that the action in the picture is not wrong in out society. In other words itÌs teaching them to be whores in an early age. It affect young teenage girls more then older girls. Also the young girls donÌt know what reality is and what is not.

    There are other ways of advertisement on these sneakers in a decent way and a way that no one will be offended. In my opinion guys will not be offended because the advertisement gives a bad concept on girls rather than guys. Nowadays women who sleeps around with a lot of guys is portrayed as a whore and a slut, however when a guy who sleeps around with a lot of girls is admired as a slick as well as professional player. In my opinion I donÌt like that assumption that people make today about situations and I think that some people donÌt have any respect for other people and as soon as they see something that is happening then they just start talking about it saying everything that they can imagine even if they assume the wrong thing.

  33. Malcolm says:

    jess: you’re a rebo.

    love, malcolm.

  34. JB says:

    There was some movie out a long time ago starring Dudley Moore as an advertising executive who came up with the idea of brutally honest advertising. The ads were along the vein of Jaguar: “for geeks with money who can’t get a date”. I would love to see a brutally honest version of this.

  35. Peter Kim says:

    It’s been a while, but for the full story, check out my blog.

  36. adsf says:

    days ago,some people want to get a pair puma shoes from me,but i don’t have,what a pity!

  37. adsg says:

    offer you some puma shoes with low price,if you are interested in the products,pls see the web:

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  44. james lee says:

    This is so crazy that these are fake. Why do people do this all the time.

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