A salacious billboard is the best PR money can buy.
Just ask Calvin Klein, a designer who has staked his marketing on the allure of a racy ad. Just this week, the fashion house erected a billboard, in which some passersby saw the F-word. (You decide
Thanks to the billboard, Calvin won press in print, online, and on local TV.
In Chicago, an anti-abortion-rights group pulled off a similar coup.
This week, Life Always put up a billboard depicting President Obama alongside the message: “Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted.”
That outdoor ad landed Life Always’ message on TV and in The Huffington Post
A little (or a lot of) controversy goes a long way in the PR world: Put up something racy, and the hounds in the media pounce and run with it. A reporter interviews someone who’s offended, a talking head rips the organization for posting the ad, and a second talking head defends it.
You bought a billboard and
won loads of press. Who needs a PR agency?
Though the Calvin Klein and Life Always ads were over the top, they compare favorably to these notoriously racy billboards.
Be warned: Some of these are NSFW (Not Safe for Work).
Calvin Klein Jeans:
The clothier has pushed the boundary so much, it practically warrants its own list of controversial ads. For now, let’s stick to just this one—a billboard depicting what appears to be a threesome about to take place on the streets of SoHo. Because if you wear CK jeans, the fantasy will happen for you.
Peta “Got Autism”:
Never at a loss to stir the PR pot, Peta launched this billboard in 2008 in Newark, N.J. Shoving vegetarianism down our throats at all cost, the organization attempts to scare us away from giving our children milk for fear it could cause autism. It didn’t, however, say anything about ice cream.
T.I.’s AKOO Jeans:
Another fashion retailer, another sexual innuendo. This time it involved controversy over rapper T.I.—and not the typical gun-possession charges he’s used to. The performer appeared on a billboard for clothing retailer AKOO (A King of Oneself), in which he shows that AKOO jeans can get you, um—other things, what you really need is a good belt. Apparently sizes run big, so keep that in mind if you plan on getting a pair.
“Gossip Girl” OMFG:
This promotion for the popular CW series didn’t even need Kristen Bell—the only thing the show ever had going for it (aside from Blake Lively)—to spark its share of gossip. Too much? IDK. Oh, well—XOXO.
Even in a foreign country where the rules on advertising are often more lenient than those in the United States, this billboard for the New Zealand debut of the HBO show “Hung” was enough for the controversy to hit U.K. media outlets.
Court TV’s “Your (soon-to-be-ex) Wife, Emily”:
For those who can’t make out the small text of this billboard originally located in New York, it reads:
Do I have your attention now?
I know all about her, you dirty, sneaky, immoral, unfaithful, poorly-endowed slimeball. Everything's caught on tape.
Your (soon-to-be-ex) Wife,
p.s. I paid for this billboard from OUR joint bank account.
Though it was later debunked as part of a picture-perfect publicity stunt for Court TV’s “Parco P.I.,” it caused enough stir to draw viewers and the stories in The New York Times
, “Good Morning America,” and countless other blogs.