Holocaust song has cellular firm squirming

TORONTO Fri Sep 14, 2007 4:00pm EDT

A Bell retail store is seen in downtown Montreal, June 21, 2007. Bell Canada has apologized after a punk-rock reference to the Holocaust appeared on billboard advertisements for its cellphones. REUTERS/Shaun Best

A Bell retail store is seen in downtown Montreal, June 21, 2007. Bell Canada has apologized after a punk-rock reference to the Holocaust appeared on billboard advertisements for its cellphones.

Credit: Reuters/Shaun Best

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's biggest phone company has apologized after a punk-rock reference to the Holocaust appeared on billboard advertisements for its cellphones.

The ads for Bell Canada's (BCE.TO) Solo discount service showed a young woman decked out in flashy punk rock attire, with a button that reads "Belsen was a gas" -- the controversial title of a song by the Sex Pistols, and a reference to Nazi Germany's Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

"It was inadvertent," Bell Canada spokesman Mark Langton said on Friday, noting that the dozen ads were taken down as soon as the company realized its mistake. "Obviously, we would never depict such an offensive slogan in our advertising."

He said Bell officials approved the ads after examining sample images that were smaller than the final billboards. The button inscription could only be read when the ads were blown up to their full size, he said.

"In the proofing and approval materials, it was impossible to see the button, so our folks missed it."

BCE apologizes "for any offense or distress that we caused," Langton said.

The billboards appeared in mass-transit systems in Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as in Toronto, which has a large Jewish community and many Holocaust survivors.

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