Fascist propaganda takes over NYC subway eliciting criticism along with great buzz.
November 30, 2015
Lots of scuttlebutt over the use of Nazi imagery on several NYC subway cars to promote Amazon’s new show, The Man in the High Castle, which imagines our world had Hitler won World War 2. The campaign incited many riders to complain and inevitable criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, among others – and it did so without even using Nazism’s most reviled symbol of all, the Swastika.
I’m not surprised by the furor (no pun intended) but I’m not deterred by it either. Propaganda and advertising are supposed to illicit a reaction. That this campaign mixes the two is not gratuitous. The world would indeed be a scary place if Nazi’s were running it. That’s what the show is about. And that’s the point to this campaign. Copy ties it all together. But not before you’ve been flummoxed by the images.
I have spoken numerous times to marketing communications classes as well as at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes about the power of propaganda and its influence in modern advertising. I even use Nazi imagery as an example. It’s kind of a pet subject of mine. Ever since creating the “curiously strong mints” campaign for Altoid’s, I’ve respected the awesome power of signage. Out of home media – be it billboard, poster or experiential, when it’s done well, when it becomes iconic, is a game changer. A painted wall becomes a neighborhood landmark. There’s a semi-permanence to the medium that film and video can never possess.
Throwing stones in glass houses? One might question the campaign’s location. New York City is home to a great many Jews, many of them direct descendants of those who were killed by the Nazi regime. Maybe such images should never be foisted upon them -or anyone- in a public place (especially a railway car). It’s a fair argument. Even in today’s terror-ridden landscape, Nazi Germany still holds a special place in the cellar of evil. Its infamous symbols and propaganda demonstrate this evil with searing intensity.
That said, I’m all in on this idea. Precisely because of just how nervous it makes everyone. That means it’s working.