Scores of people called local radio stations to condemn the ad for Asia Television that ran Nov. 14 in the English-language daily South China Morning Post and some Chinese publications.
The spread used a page photo of Hitler, implying that if he had advertised on ATV he would have won World War II and dominated the world.
"With 90% of Europe under his control, he still lost the war," the ad copy reads. "Thank goodness he couldn't advertise on ATV. With our station share, he would have been assured of total domination.
"Our reach in Greater China .*.*. would have them `sieg heiling' from Shanghai to Guangzhou," the ad said. It ended with a play on words of the onetime German leader's final solution to annihilate Jews: "Before you come up with your final solution, call your advertising agency or ATV ... "
"We are sorry we created such a reaction; we never intended to do that," an ATV spokesman said. He said the TV station issued an apology published in the Post with one from the agency that created the ad, Euro RSCG Ball Partnership, and another from the Post itself.
The Post has decided to tighten its approval procedures for ads in the wake of the furor, said Editor in Chief David Armstrong.
Euro RSCG was surprised by the reaction. "We never anticipated the controversy," said Tommy Cheng, partner.
K.W. Leung, deputy controller-marketing and sales of rival TV station Television Broadcasting, criticized the advertisement's lack of sensitivity.
"Final solution in the context of Hitler refers to gas chambers," he said.