Amazon Pays to Sponsor Controversy Around Its More Notorious Products

Blonde 'Anne of Green Gables' is latest Facebook ad fodder

Amazon continues to profit from public mockery of certain products it stocks, with the newest target being a laughably fronted collection of Anne of Green Gables novels. The cover of the three-book set features a blonde, farmtown-sexy version of Anne Shirley, who is actually famously redheaded (or greenheaded, when her plans at dyeing her locks raven black go awry). As of this weekend, the cover had been removed from the Amazon listing, which now simply says "No image available." The controversy over blonde Anne, sparked by a small publisher's half-ass attempt at a public-domain print run, has been hashed out by everyone from the Huffington Post to the Washington Post, so I won't delve further into that silliness. But what is worth noting is Amazon's role in fueling the flames of such an outcry. You might have noticed buzz about this book cover in your Facebook news feed, and that's no accident. Amazon is sponsoring users' Facebook posts that link to the book, meaning that if a friend of yours mocks the cover and links to the listing (as my friend Angela did below), Amazon will pay to ensure that post is pushed high in your news feed for days to come. This is the same tactic we've written about with quirky and popular Amazon items like that banana slicer and the toy version of the Predator drone, along with other products such as Playmobil's TSA checkpoint for kids. In the case of Anne of Green Gables, the negative attention—spread in part by Amazon's Facebook ad campaign—has resulted in nearly 400 one-star reviews, knocking the book's average rating down to 1.5 stars out of 5. The lesson seems obvious: There's no such thing as bad publicity around an Amazon product, as long as you're Amazon and not the people behind the product.