In Amazon's new show The Man in the High Castle, America is the scene of an alternate reality set 15 years after the Axis powers won World War II. Nazi Germany controls the eastern portion of the U.S, whereas Imperial Japan controls the western states, and a neutral region of the Rocky Mountains separates them. The series is based on Philip K. Dick's novel of the same name and with the release of all 10 episodes on November 20, marketing has naturally ramped up. Part of that effort has included ads on some New York City subway trains decking out entire cars in Imperial and Nazi imagery.
It goes without saying that such symbols, the Nazi ones especially, strike a nerve in people, which is why the rejected ads that sold menstruation-specific underwear, deemed too suggestive, but eventually went back on its position in response to a similar social media fire.
Obviously the MTA has the right to determine what is and is not appropriate to depict in its subway ads, but the response of people on the Internet to controversial imagery and unfair shrouding of "racy" material proves that rules or not, it should act consistently. The right to free speech is incredibly important to our country — it's something that notably sets us apart from other areas of the world — but inevitably, gray areas come into play that challenge the legitimacy of those rights in certain cases.
Also important to consider is the effect these ads have on their audiences. It's no secret that New Yorkers are rather tough-skinned when it comes to marketing of any kind — they have to be or else they'd never get to where they're going on time. The backlash may not be fully representative of the overall public opinion, but if it's loud enough, that hardly seems to matter. The bottom line is that such potentially controversial advertising should go through a more rigorous process before it makes its way to the public, one that takes a hard look at the audience it'll be in front of. That's the key to mass communication, isn't it? You have to know your audience.
What do you think of these ads? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Cover image: Katherine Lam via Twitter