PALERMO, Italy (AFP) - A fashion ad campaign showing a pink-clad Adolf Hitler has outraged locals in Sicily where former anti-fascist fighters on Monday demanded the giant posters be torn down.

One of the outsized pictures of the Nazi dictator, his swastika armband replaced with a heart, is plastered above a street junction in central Palermo above the caption, "Change Your Style. Don't Follow Your Leader."

But the local association of partisans, as the World War II Italian resistance was known, wrote to the mayor of Palermo, the regional governor and state prosecutor and the media to voice their anger.

"We do not understand how the city authorities could have allowed such a billboard to be installed, and we demand its immediate withdrawal," said the leader of the ANPI group, Ottavio Terranova.

Terranova said the posters were a "serious" offense against all "those who fought fascism, and violate our democratic and constitutional principles."

The head of the ad agency behind the campaign, Daniele Manno, told Italian media that it intended to ridicule Hitler, not minimise his crimes.

The aim, he said, was to "incite young people to follow their own style and not to be conditioned by leaders."

Other posters are to follow in coming weeks, bearing a picture of China's Communist strongman Mao Zedong.