Amazon suspended the ads account of several companies using ads with “religious content” – namely, Christian apparel and souvenirs. Employees of the company took down multiple ads with “religious content” over the course of several months.
A representative of the company stated that several products related to a “specific religion” were not allowed to be shown. This message was sent to one of the advertisers via e-mail. As it turned out, this statement did not reflect the true nature of Amazon's policies.
CNBC received additional clarification from a spokesperson of Amazon who stated that the e-mail letter contained incorrect information. The spokesperson confirmed that their policies did not change, but some employees misinterpreted the rules and took down ads with “religious content.” Amazon initiated additional training to better inform their staff about corporate policies.
Amazon reacted quickly. It competes in a fierce market and manages to bring over $2.7 billion in revenues (36% increase compared to the previous year). However, it is still “only” number 3 in the market.
Amazon's “small” mistake cost several sellers a notable loss in sales. One of the prominent sellers who desired to stay anonymous told CNBC that they lost revenues. The vast majority of their products were related to Christianity: apparel with quotes from the bible and souvenirs. Many ads advertising their products were suspended by Amazon.
Some sellers speculated that Amazon wants to avoid controversies that hit Facebook and Google recently. The formerly allowed users to create advertisements with anti-Semitic words while the latter showed ads with racist terminology as reported by BuzzFeed.
If so, Amazon's “mistakes” are understandable although not justified. Sellers of products related to religious beliefs will suffer from Amazon's policies that potentially prohibit advertisements featuring such products. Such policies will directly affect bottom lines of small businesses catering to religious communities.
Multiple posts on Amazon's forums also complain about the suspensions of ads featuring Christian products. Despite Amazon telling everyone that their policies do not prohibit the use of ads with “religious content,” several sellers told CNBC that their ads have been suspended on Friday, May 10.