ADS PLAY CLINTON SCANDAL FOR CHUCKLES

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While U.S. news outlets remain filled with somber pronouncements about a White House "crisis" and the possibility of impeachment, international advertisers are playing the investigation into President Clinton's sex life for laughs.

European and Latin American marketers can't resist poking fun at the U.S. president's predicament. Even stodgy Unilever has joined in the fun.

LITTLE OFFENSE ABROAD

U.K. newspapers and Brazilian TV networks are the main beneficiaries of a spate of Clinton-related ads this month. There's little risk in offending readers and viewers, since consumers in those parts of the world aren't viewing the charges as seriously as Americans are.

Unilever's Elida Faberge was already running a U.K. ad campaign portraying Lynx male deodorant as a sexual magnet for women. It was a quick step for agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London, to throw in a newspaper execution showing a garbage can outside the White House containing an empty Lynx container.

Other advertisers are less subtle. A U.K. newspaper ad for Olympus cameras features two photographs, one showing President Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the other showing only the president. The headline of the ad, created by Lowe Howard-Spink, London, reads: "The Olympus Digital lets you crop out anything that ruins your image."

QUICK-CHANGE ARTIST

Brazilians, meanwhile, are chuckling over a TV spot in which their favorite advertising spokesman dresses up in rapid succession as President Clinton, his wife Hillary and Ms. Lewinsky to peddle Bombril, Brazil's leading household cleanser.

The outrageous 30-second spot, via W/Brasil, Sao Paulo, broke earlier this month and stars actor Carlos Moreno, who has played the nerdy but oddly endearing Bombril spokesman for more than 20 years. In the ad, a saxophone-toting Mr. Clinton is given some Bombril steel pads by Ms. Lewinsky and reappears with a sparkling clean image in a spotless White House.

The premise: Bombril cleans "even the international dirt." The Ms. Lewinsky character appears in the end, with the pun, "Oh Bill, bom Bill." (Bom is Portuguese for good.)

Overseas advertisers don't expect a slap on the wrist from U.S. representatives for mocking Mr. Clinton.

"The U.S. is extremely sympathetic to humor," said Washington Olivetto, president of W/Brasil. "I don't expect to get any complaints from the North American consulate. I'm sure they will see the campaign as being just like any other joke."

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