A furor appears to have stopped the Führer. Amazon Studios will pull ad signage from New York City subways that used insignia suggesting Nazi control to promote the streaming-video service’s new drama, “The Man in the High Castle.”
“Amazon has just decided to pull the ads,” Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for New York City Transit and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said by email Tuesday. Executives at Amazon were not available for immediate comment.
The ads were part of a “wrap” of the New York City Shuttle, a subway line that runs between Grand Central Terminal and Times Square. “The Man In The High Castle” is an Amazon drama that has gained critical acclaim since Amazon released ten episodes earlier this month. Based on a 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick, “Castle” tells the story of people in the United States struggling in an alternate future in which the Axis powers won World War II.
The ads did not come in the form of traditional billboards or signs, but rather an immersive decoration that covered the seats and walls of subway cars. On some seats, riders found an insignia reminiscent of Japan’s Rising Sun. A German “Iron Eagle” festooned other seat backs.
The ads were acceptable under the MTA’s current content guidelines, Ortiz said. The Authority’s current standards, adopted in April of this year, do not permit the acceptance of ads that are designed to express opinion or advocacy of a cause, but commercials for products – even abstract ones like TV shows – are deemed fit. “The ads do not violate our content-neutral ad standards and thus we have no grounds to reject them.,” Ortiz said earlier Tuesday. “The MTA is a government agency and can’t accept or reject ads based on how we feel about them; we have to follow the standards approved by our board.”
Politicians and advocacy organizations recoiled, however. New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio called the ads “irresponsible and offensive” in remarks provided to the New York Daily News. The Anti-Defamation League told the New York blog Gothamist that the ads appeared out of context; straphangers would not immediately recognize they were meant to re-create the atmosphere of the Amazon program, not put symbols once ascribed to Nazi Germany in front of riders’ eyes.
Amazon had been slated to keep the Shuttle “wrap” from November 15 to December 14, Ortiz said, while 260 subway station posters were to appear between November 9 and December 14.
While the ads may have raised eyebrows, many TV outlets have used the Shuttle train to draw attention to their coming video offerings. Time Warner’s Turner has used the subway line to spark awareness of its baseball coverage. Fox used it to call attention to “Empire.” And Starz covered the Shuttle to gin up viewership for its drama, “Power.”