New York City: a transit system in temporary turmoil? Looks like Jared Fogle isn’t the only subway saga at play.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority garnered less-than-favorable reactions this week for a controversial PR campaign surrounding Amazon’s original series The Man in the High Castle.

Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel, the show is a dystopian historical fiction set in 1960s America occupied by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Promotional vinyl wrappings covered 42nd St. subway car benches with WWII-era emblems. Half of the seats donned an Imperial Japan-esque flag, opposing American flags with stars replaced by the German Reichsadler eagle and Iron Cross in place of the swastika.

An additional 260 posters for the series were plastered throughout said cars and other NYC stations; however, many quickly questioned whether the “immersive experience” provides enough context.

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via Daily Mail

Evan Bernstein, New York regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, agrees any knowledge of the show would explain the promotion, but the background doesn’t necessarily translate to average subway riders.

When it comes to publicizing media/art with political topics, a significant gray area emerges. Although the MTA banned “political ads” on subways and buses last April, do things political in nature count just the same?

Advertising the show is different from endorsing a political standpoint. “Unless you’re saying that you believe Amazon is advocating for a Nazi takeover of the United States, then it meets the standards,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said to Gothamist, who originally broke the story.

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The alternate-history series debuted in January – via The Hollywood Reporter

Though many publics aren’t opposed to the show itself, some wonder why the campaign’s tastefulness wasn’t called further into question upon implementation. Despite falling within technical boundaries, individuals find it unappealing and generally “inappropriate” to have visually forced upon them.

Including New York political big dogs.

NYC mayor Bill de Blasio found the ads “irresponsible and offensive to WWII and Holocaust survivors, their fans and countless other New Yorkers,” adamantly calling for them to be taken down; Governor Andrew Cuomo reportedly instigated the campaign’s twist of fate once backlash began to fester.

Per Amazon’s request, the MTA agreed Tuesday to oust the ads originally scheduled to run through December 14.

Whether individuals find the campaign in poor or acceptable taste, it begs the question of media desensitization.

With massive advertising campaigns routinely smeared across big cities like New York and Los Angeles for the latest television, movie and music releases, are publics growing numb to strategic persuasion? Day-in-day-out exposure would naturally diminish effectiveness in seizing attention, so companies are always looking for new and innovative ways to stand out.

That said, outshining the promotional noise in a tastefully provocative manner should be the goal for any strategic communications practitioner. While immersive PR campaigns have immensely effective potential, one must remain aware of opening themselves up for more emotional repercussions.

(Feature image via Gothamist)

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