Woolworths have apologised after its Anzac commemoration website caused social media outrage by inviting users to share war tributes under the slogan “fresh in our memories”.
The site was taken down on Tuesday night after receiving widespread criticism on social networking site Twitter, with users labelling the marketing stunt crass and insulting to Australian diggers.
In a statement issued after the campaign was taken down, the supermarket giant apologised for branding the site.
“We regret that our branding on the picture generator has caused offence, this was clearly never our intention,” Woolworths said on its Facebook page.
“Like many heritage Australian companies, we were marking our respect for ANZAC and our veterans.”
Woolworths urged people on the site to share stories and profile style pictures of veterans by uploading images to the website, which then branded them with the Woolworths logo and the phrase “Lest we Forget 1915-2015. Fresh in our memories”.
The food retailer said the site was developed to give staff and customers a place to put their stories to mark the centenary of Anzac.
“We continue to be proud supporters of the RSL and Camp Gallipoli in this important year and look forward to working with them into the future,” the company added.
On Wednesday morning, the fallout from the furore continued on Twitter.
“I’m still amazed at the utter ghoulishness of Woolworths shoehorning the word ‘Fresh’ into community memories of war” one user tweeted.
“@woolworths very on the nose and in bad taste Woolies. Sack the person who approved of this campaign,” another tweet read.
RSL president rear admiral, Ken Doolan, labelled the Woolworths campaign “unfortunate”.
“I think they have taken the right action … pulling it down,” he told Network Nine.
“There is a very fine line to be judged here, where you are dealing with such sensitive issues and the Australian public speak very clearly and very loudly when that fine line is crossed.
“On this occasion unfortunately it was crossed, it was insensitive, it has been taken down.”
Australian minister for veterans’ affairs, Michael Ronaldson, said Woolworths did not seek permission to use the word ‘Anzac’.
Under law, permission is needed for the use of the word Anzac in any such material and it must be granted by the Australian Government.
“In this instance, permission was not sought by the campaign proponents, nor would it have been approved,” he said in a statement.
As soon as the Woolworths campaign was brought to his attention, he contacted the company to end it.
The word Anzac cannot be trivialised or used inappropriately, he said.
NSW minister for veterans’ affairs, David Elliott, described the Woolworths campaign as “distasteful”.
He said Anzac Day is to be commemorated, not celebrated.
“For these firms, and there a number of examples, to use the Anzac and the veteran and the whole notion of sacrifice and service for their own commercial gain, or indeed personal gain, I find highly distasteful,” he told Fairfax Radio.