Why Amazon Plastered This NYC Subway Train With Nazi and Imperial Japanese Imagery

Some riders object to ads for an alternate history show

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UPDATE: Amazon is pulling these ads, reports Variety. UPDATE 2: Gothamist has more on the removal of the ads, revealing that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pressured the MTA to take the ads down. Amazon did not request their removal. 

See our original post below: 

Amazon's advertising for its latest original series, The Man in the High Castle, includes symbols of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan posted all over a Shuttle train in New York City's subway. The campaign, which runs from Nov. 15 through Dec. 14, has some consumers alarmed. 

The tactic fits the series' narrative. The show is based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, portraying an alternate ending to World War II that imagines if the Axis powers had won. But in April, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority updated its standards to prohibit political advertisements, and some consumers wonder if the ads meet those standards. 

"Half the seats in my car had Nazi insignias inside an American flag, while the other half had the Japanese flag in a style like the World War II design," commuter Ann Toback told Gothamist. "So I had a choice, and I chose to sit on the Nazi insignia because I really didn't want to stare at it."

Gothamist posed the question  yesterday to the MTA and Outfront Media, which arranged the campaign. "Unless you're saying that you believe Amazon is advocating for a Nazi takeover of the United States, then it meets the standards. They're advertising a show," MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg told Gothamist. 

The rub, of course, is that the show portrays a fictional narrative that uses real symbols that carry personal and historical resonance. But Lisberg argued that "despite your, or my, or anyone's feelings about a particular ad, we have to be guided by the ad standards we put forward." 

@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.