More on Amazon’s problematic “Man in the High Castle” ads

For starters, Amazon has agreed to pull its controversial subway ads for its streaming video series based on Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle, after lots of people including a few politicians complained.

The video included with the article gives a closer look at the subway car in question, which has been transformed into an ad for The Man in the High Castle inside and out. It also shows that the symbol held in the claws of the Reichsadler is not in fact a swastika as I had assumed from the photos posted online, but an Iron Cross, which unlike the swastika is not illegal in Germany nor elsewhere. It doesn’t make the ad campaign any less tasteless, especially since both the eagle insignia (though modified from the Third Reich version) and the Iron Cross are still in use in modern times. The eagle, which actualy dates back to the Roman Empire, is still the state symbol of the Federal Republic of Germany, though the modified modern version is called Bundesadler, i.e. Federal instead of Imperial eagle. And the Iron Cross, which dates back to the Medieval insignia of the Teutonic Order, is still the official logo of the German army.

According to the article, the New York City transport authority clearly wasn’t happy about the ads, but had no power to do anything about the ads, because they have no right to reject ads, unless they disparage an individual or group. Which isn’t bad as a policy, otherwise you’d get rejections of e.g. atheism ads or safer sex ads or birth control ads, too, because someone felt offended by them.

But what stuns me most about this whole affair is how whoever does the ad campaigns for Amazon could ever have thought that plastering modified Nazi and Imperial Japanese symbols all over subway cars in New York City of all places, a city which is home to one and a half million Jews as well as one million Asian Americans as well as 250000 people of German ancestry, was a good idea. It wasn’t just obvious that this advertising campaign would offend a whole lot of people, it almost seems to have been designed that way. Especially since it’s not just a poster or an ad banner, it’s a whole subway train redesigned inside and out.

Talking of which, is it normal in the US that entire trains are covered in themed advertising inside and out? Cause here in Germany, we do have the occasional themed train such as this neat example of a Bremen tram repainted to celebrate the local football club Werder Bremen or this one which advertises an ecological project. But themed trams are fairly rare, most just have regular ad banners. And the theme never extends to the interior.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon did not mind the controversy at all, because it got plenty of people talking about The Man in the High Castle and raised awareness of the show among these who hadn’t heard about it yet. In short, they got some extra publicity for the show out of their pretty tasteless ad campaign.

However, by all accounts The Man in the High Castle is good enough that it doesn’t need tasteless advertising and deliberately courted controversies to promote it.

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3 Responses to More on Amazon’s problematic “Man in the High Castle” ads

  1. Thomas Diehl says:

    I really don’t geht the problem with this campaign. It’s eye-catching, it promises exactly what it’s advertising and they even toned it down. See the original English cover to the book, featuring a giant Swastika and an imperial sun for context. Or the ubiquity of Confederate flags (a flag usually associated with slavery and thus no less offensive) both in the US and over here.

  2. Renee Bennett says:

    Re: re-designing trains inside and out for advertising purposes.

    Yes, it is done, often enough that the practice generates no special comment, save when someone does something as with the Dick show (pun not intended). This happens in Canada, too. I will admit that re-designing the interior is less common than doing the exterior, probably because a great many more people will see the exterior than the interior. Additionally, I haven’t seen the seats in Canada repainted the way they are in the NY ads.

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