Sunglasses maker Valley Eyewear was reportedly forced to remove advertisements featuring black and white photos of the Spomenik memorial where the Jasenovac extermination camp once stood in Nazi-allied Croatia during World War II.
Fairfax Media reported the photos were part of a campaign to market its “Black Zero” product line.
It quoted Valley Eyewear’s founder and director, Michael Crawley, as having said he has apologised to the Jasenovac site as well as representatives of Australia’s Jewish community to apologise for the incident “and to give our assurance that Valley Eyewear was completely unaware of the sensitivity of the sites in question”.
The business has faced a backlash on social media as well as in international press.
“Dear @valleyeyewear: you appear to be using photographs of Yugoslav-era monuments from #Serbia & #Croatia to sell your glasses. These monuments were built to commemorate the anti-fascist struggle & the Holocaust. That is incredibly offensive,” said one Twitter post dated 30 June, which may have initiated the public furore.
Others doubted that the notion that it was an inadvertent oversight.
“What bothers me is who @valleyeyewear contacted when they decided to create an ad campaign in a Croat concentration camp for Serbs, Roma and Jews in WW2? If they saw the place and found it interesting, did they not ask anyone anything about its history?,” said another Twitter user.
Valley Eyewear has been contacted for comment.
It is not the first, and unlikely to be the last, time a business has courted controversy over its advertising.
In January this year, Swedish clothing retailer H&M saw rioting and vandalism at its stores in South Africa in response to a “racist” advertisement.
Closer to home, the owner of coffee business previously admitted to My Business that he suffered some backlash from a cheeky social media post, after a photo meant as a joke was misinterpreted as support for the illicit drug trade.