If magazines present distasteful advertising, readers simply stop buying those publications. If the public disapproves of TV or radio programs or commercials they switch channels or turn it off. With outside-of-home media, where these offending visuals are thrust into the face of the public, what is the public to do?
Since they have no other short-term way of halting these disgraceful advertisements, the public has started to resort to defacing offending ads. Letters of protest to what children see on public transit or other public media bring forth excuses that it takes time and there are First Amendment rights to consider.
Calvin Klein, one of the chief public offenders, continues to show naked bodies on ads on buses and telephone booths. Guy LaRoche's bus poster introducing Horizon cologne showed a waist-up photo of a naked man above a naked woman. A phone booth ad for a fashion magazine shows a young man embracing a woman clutching her buttocks. A subway poster for AIDS safety showed laughing, embracing couples of gays and lesbians wearing latex gloves holding condoms or other sex paraphernalia. In one WQHT 97 "Hot FM" subway poster a young black man was holding the breasts of a white woman standing in front of him, and another young woman was "kicking" at the viewer with one leg up high wearing provocatively tight shorts.
These are no longer advertisements but political agendas conveyed by creative-bereft individuals or companies that use guerrilla-shock tactics and a damn the ethics, full speed ahead approach to gain more market share.
In-your-face advertising on outdoor boards, buses and posters have started a movement to civil disobedience on the part of the public. Defaced and marked up advertising is not just about graffiti, but about the public's rebellion to indecent advertising.
Unless we clean up our act soon, we may be surprised by the explosion of the public's seething resentment. If we don't do it ourselves, the size and reaction of the next big movement to controlling and limiting advertising will put the large environmentalist groups of today to shame.M
Mr. Antebi, a creative with over 17 years in advertising, lives in New York.