The 100-metre-square mocked-up image of the half-naked world leader is part of a nationwide advertising campaign for an underwear company aiming to cash in on the success of a “cash-for-clunkers” scheme for old cars.
Punters trading in their old underwear will get a €5 discount on a new pair, the advert promises, under the slogan: “The country needs new undies.”
The electronic advert – on a busy road junction in the heart of former West Berlin – caused a stir on the streets and made it onto the front pages of local papers, with scores of people taking snapshots of the billboard with cameras or mobile phones.
“I think it’s great. Brilliant. It’s a positive signal for the economic situation in Germany,” said a 54-year-old who gave his name of Meier adding he would “definitely” trade in his old pants at the first opportunity.
A 37-year-old called Bebe said: “I think it’s fantastic that you can look at something funny when you’re waiting for the bus.”
Merkel herself was tight-lipped on the subject of her image being used in this fashion. “The chancellor’s office does not want to comment on the campaign,” a spokesman said.