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Pope Francis to Visit 'G-spot of Europe': New City Campaign Shocks Ahead of Papal Trip

A European capital has launched a raunchy tourism campaign, branding itself as the continent’s “G-spot,” a little more than a month before a visit by Pope Francis.

The biggest city in the Baltic country of Lithuania—Vilnius—announced plans for the risqué PR campaign earlier this month, but it officially launched the new ads and a vacation-planning site on Thursday. The tongue-in-cheek campaign relies on innuendo as it centers on a nude woman in the throes of passion, sprawled over a map of Europe. As the woman grips the patch of the map where Vilnius is located, the tagline suggests she—or her partner—has stumbled on a hidden treasure. “Nobody knows where it is but when you find it, it is amazing.”

The campaign has gone viral online. But it is facing stiff backlash at home, partly because the racy ad will be luring tourists as the head of the Catholic Church prepares to visit the city.

08_08_Vilnius The homepage of a publicity campaign to promote tourism in Vilnius, August 7. On August 9, Lithuania's capital city of Vilnius launched a publicity campaign, calling itself the "'G-spot of Europe," after the elusive erogenous zone. Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

Vilnius Archbishop Gintaras Grusas said the campaign "potentially strengthens the image of Vilnius as a sex-tourism city and exploits the sexuality of women," Agence France Press reported. Ricardas Doveika, pastor at Vilnius’ St. Joseph’s Chapel, told LRT that the ads would make locals feel “uncomfortable” before a papal visit that will draw the attention of believers around the world. Besides the clergy, the campaign has also found a fair share of political opponents.

“No one in the West is using sexist references in marketing anymore, especially when we speak about public authorities,” former Vilnius mayor Arturas Zuokas told AFP on Wednesday

Local politicians have also expressed opposition to the campaign, and earlier this month the country’s national government reportedly sent a letter to the mayor of Vilnius, urging him to reconsider branding Lithuania’s capital as the “G-spot of Europe.”

“If you decide that the campaign is still appropriate, we would ask you to postpone its implementation after Pope Francis's visit on September 22-23, 2018,” the letter stated.

The controversy prompted Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis to distance himself from the decision of local officials. He lamented a “rather weird” choice to set up the campaign now but admitted there was nothing he could do to stop the ads or hold them until after the pope’s visit.

“We are speaking about a very important visit to Lithuania,” the prime minister told state broadcaster LRT, referring to the papal trip. “Perhaps these steps should have been coordinated, but that’s the decision of Vilnius.” Skvernelis said that legally, the campaign did not violate decency laws and he could not pull the plug on it, despite reports that his government had already implored Vilnius to cut or delay the project. “As I mentioned, I think the timing is not the best for the campaign, but it is my opinion.”

The Go Vilnius tourism agency behind the controversial campaign has stood by its work and highlighted that it has nothing to do with the pope’s visit to Lithuania. Inga Romanovskiene, the manager of the agency, told Newsweek that she has not received any “direct complaints” from the Catholic Church and that the campaign is going ahead with the Vilnius mayor’s support.

“Separate individuals have expressed criticism before the start of the campaign,” she said. “We are sensitive to the different ways the campaign could be perceived. While everyone is entitled to express their opinion, the campaign is by no means intended to cause offense.”

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The campaign timeline, as well as its “playful” tone, had one objective in mind—“to target the millennial market in London and Berlin” during the summer, Romanovskiene said. “Go Vilnius‘ campaign is in no way associated with or connected to the pope’s visit to Lithuania and the campaign will end before his visit,” she added. “Furthermore, the target audience for this campaign is millennials based outside of Lithuania. The publicity timelines and channels for the two events vary considerably. Both the campaign and the pope's visit are good opportunities to increase the visibility of Vilnius internationally, however they are completely separate activities aimed at separate audiences.”

Zuokas’s center-right Lithuanian Freedom Union party has officially backed the dismissal of Romanovskiene, citing her involvement in the project as part of the reason, LRT reported. Vilnius authorities have not responded to the resolution by the party, which is not one of the nation’s major parliamentary forces. Asked if she regards the campaign to be successful at this point, Romanovskiene said the online buzz around the ads spoke for itself.

“So far we have had a positive reaction, with over 900 global media outlets writing about Vilnius in response to the campaign,” she said. “Our aim was to put Vilnius on the map, and many of the international press articles do just that by including scenic pictures of the city and pinpointing its location with European maps within their reports.”

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