How would you like to see a giant depiction of an inflated condom outside of your home every day?
That was the reality faced by a San Fernando Valley mother until she successfully petitioned to have advertising firm Van Wagner remove an AIDS Health Care Foundation billboard previously displayed in her Van Nuys neighborhood. Eve Ragsdale said the giant prophylactic image along with the words “Why Not?” was prompting questions from her 6-year-old triplets before she asked the outdoor ad company to have it moved.
Coincidentally, the billboard was already scheduled to rotate out soon after Ragsdale filed her complaint, according to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Van Wagner swapped out the ad for one featuring a plain logo on Wednesday and mounted the condom ad elsewhere.
“The bottom line is that the image itself and the advertisement, it’s not sexual in any way,” said Samantha Granberry, media manager for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Keeping in mind her children's age there is absolutely a way to explain what it is without getting too descriptive. As parents, it’s our opportunity to use that as a conversation starter and educate our children.”
Ragsdale, a former teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District, maintained she was not opposed to the campaign’s message, but was simply uncomfortable with what she labeled a “phallic image.”
“What this does is really illustrate the larger problem with outdoor ads, which is that you can't TIVO it, you can't fast forward it and you can't control your children seeing it,” said Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight. “I think while I may not be offended by these things, parents do have the right to control what their children see.”
Despite the fact that the billboard was less than half a mile from Sylvan Park Elementary, other residents and commuters said they didn’t have a problem with the campaign.
Where do we, or where should we, draw the line on what’s appropriate for billboard display? At what point does censorship infringe upon free speech? Why are some images acceptable in certain communities while others get relocated or removed on demand?
Samantha Granberry, media plan and strategy manager, for the Aids Healthcare Foundation
Dennis Hathaway, president, Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight