Eton of Sweden in the hot seat for unbelievable advertising gaffe


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Image: Instagram

Here’s a Monday afternoon question for you: when you look at this picture, what do you see? Or more to the point, what are your initial reactions? 

You’d think something like this would immediately spark the PR equivalent of a firestorm. Quite the contrary: this window display at the Yorkville storefront for Eton of Sweden, according to the Huffington Post, flew under the radar for an uncomfortably extended period of time. According to an article published on Friday, the display—an open suitcase and a folded white shirt, flanked by two actual nooses dangling over a field of cotton—had been up for a month, give or take. But for whatever reason, it wasn’t until Rhona Bennett of En Vogue fame posted a photo through social media that tinder met flame, so to speak. 

At least it elicited an early response, questions of too-little-too-late notwithstanding. When the display was first noticed late last week, the nooses—or one of them, at any rate—were quietly removed by a store employee. Not surprisingly, though, that wasn't anywhere close to a sufficient response. “A full public apology is required from Eton of Sweden in Yorkville,” read the last line of an open letter to the company, posted by Urbanalliance.ca. In response, Hans Davidson, the company’s CEO, seemed to sincerely apologize for this gaffe to end all gaffes. 

“Our company’s history is one of equal respect and appreciation of all people,” Davidson wrote, adding that “It is important you know that our Canadian team had no malicious intent in constructing this window display.” It was, he said, an attempt to showcase raw materials, with the suitcase further underscoring what he called “the travel-readiness of our product.” In the letter, Davidson also acknowledged that it was a “poor choice of both materials and design,” and that the Yorkville store’s decision “reminds us that training is needed for our team in order to avoid anything like this again in the future.”

Still, it’s one of those situations in which the context can make a person even more uneasy, despite the apology. Shortly after the story first broke, Eton of Sweden’s North American sales director, Chris Donahue, told CityNews that no offense was intended with the display. Despite all appearances, "it was meant to be a whimsical display of a swing over a cotton field." 

You know, the kind usually made with nooses, apparently. 

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