|This is the Plugg ad that was rejected by teen magazines 'Elle Girl' and 'Teen People' as well as by a Times Square building owner.
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The suburban youth denim brand, a division of Andrew International that saw sales of more than $100 million last year, asked its agency, M Media, New York, for an image that would “stop traffic, literally” on a billboard at 41st Street and 7th Avenue near Times Square, M Media's president, Margot Lewis, said.
Sweaty, entwined couple
The result, an ad featuring a sweaty, entwined couple, the woman’s hand grasping hold of the young man’s upper thigh, was stopped even before traffic had a chance to see it after the building's landlord, Boston Properties, deemed it “too suggestive” and asked for major changes. Executives at Elle Girl and Teen People agreed, while Cosmo Girl accepted the ad in its original form with only minor touch-ups and Jane accepted it wholly as is.
“We wanted something exciting, something provocative, it doesn’t make sense otherwise to spend the money to be in Times Square,” said Andrews International's president, Andrew Kirpalani, who noted that he was surprised the ad was rejected when Paris Hilton could appear so scantily clad and seductive in prime-time hawking a burger. The billboard would run Mr. Kirplanai roughly $50,000 a month.
But, according to Tommy Turner, senior vice president and a partner for Van Wagner Outdoor, the media company that represents Boston Properties, “what one person thinks is edgy or hip and perfectly acceptable, others may view as suggestive to a fault or even offensive.”
'A return to pornography'
In general, Times Square's ongoing clean-up has meant a closer look at ads by the Times Square Business Improvement District and New York State and corporations such as Morgan Stanley and Conde Nast Publications that have moved into the area, Mr. Turner said. “They welcome innovation, but they don’t welcome a return to pornography ... and when a lady appears to be grabbing a young man’s crotch, that’s a little out there.”
Of course, the ultimate decision, he said, is made by the building’s landlord.
M Media's creative director, Michael Cooper, is now working to appease Boston Properties and the magazines that rejected the ad. (A spokeswoman for Teen People said, “We asked them for something a little more teen appropriate.”) He has softened the muscle definition in the male model’s chest, raised the waistline of the jeans on the male model a bit to cover the so-called GI Joe Muscle, which is apparently “still forbidden territory to show,” Mr. Cooper said, and even changed the position of the couple.
But changing it too much could undermine the authenticity of the ads, intended to attract the suburban 15- to 22-year-olds aspiring for the city grit they don’t get at home. The new tagline for the brand, after all, is an unapologetic, irreverent plug for Plugg: “Get used to it.”
Apparently, some people can’t.