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Bananas + Condoms = No Billboards with the BIG 3

Outstanding creative rocked the powers to be at the Big 3

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‘Just Use It’ with ‘People Matter’ poster in the background. The irony of placement in OOH and what is literally and figuratively represented in this photo by the two different OOH Owners
message for Lindmark Ink

OOH Leadership

Just when we think the OOH Industry has nearly shaken the old white man syndrome and stepped into the 21st Century, the Big 3 takes two steps back. Again. You will have to read the press release which is the next post in OOH Today’s publication,  (Condoms go Bananas in LA  — https://oohtoday.com/condoms-go-bananas-in-los-angeles) to understand the context of our commentary and interview with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s (AHF) Jason Farmer below.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) —Creative that stands out

I’m not going to call the creative controversial because the OOH Industry and specifically Big 3, has taken on similar oriented creative in the past. Come on man, in a two week driving vacation this summer, in the upper Midwest from Virginia to Wisconsin, I saw plenty of strip joints on various OOH Owners billboards including some of the Big 3’s displays. Also any one who has been to LA or NYC knows there is plenty of sexual oriented creative on display.

Boobs and Boxes —Yes! Bananas —NO!

So boobs and boxes are ok on the Big 3 billboards but something that represents a threat to their manhood, namely a condom wrapped banana, is out of the question. It’s not like the AHF message is a gratuitous display of a phallus symbol. It was a photo of a banana in full condom dress stressing the importance of infectious disease prevention. AIDS!  Gesh, this is frustrating in this day and era. But so goes the stiff shirts running the Big 3. You need extra starch with that pressed dress blue?

Ok, enough ranting.

We spoke with Jason FarmerVice President of Marketing at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) about the campaign and we were specifically trying to figure out what the hell happened? How did this get turned down?

Jason Farmer in quotes.

“This is a paid public health ad campaign with OOH as the main component of the campaign. We are running on 6 billboards in LA with independent vendors. Just Los Angeles. We are also utilizing social media posting on FB, IG and TikTok, signage at our testing sites, print and online ads. The final artwork was rejected by Lamar, OUTFRONT and Clear Channel throughout the country.”


The final artwork was rejected by Lamar, OUTFRONT and Clear Channel throughout the country

A message throughout the Country and to OOH (Big 3) National Sales teams

Do the national advertisers, many which read OOH Today, take notice of this? Let’s hope not. Who is kidding who here?  They read. They take note. If it’s too risky of creative in the eyes of the BIG 3, why even consider OOH as a format?  It’ll just get turned down. You are what you do, not what you say. Someone have some explaining to do? Good luck with that. Let your National sales teams explain this one. National sales is easy. It just rolls in; Said no one who has to sell OOH on a National level for a living. One of the toughest jobs in the Industry.

Only 3 OOH companies had the courage to accept this. Kudos to them. The placement for the ‘Just Use It’ campaign in LA, was via Rick Robinson‘s team at PJX.

It’s Sexual Health

“OOH was important because we are intending for the campaign to get attention via organic social media posting by viewers around L.A. as they do with many of our other sexual health OOH campaigns. It’s not every day you see a giant banana wearing a condom on a billboard!”

Free Speech. First Amendment and other such nonsense

Anyone want to defend the Big 3’s position in light of Free Speech? Before you do, consider this:

The right to free speech is a long-standing tradition in the United States, but actually respecting the right to free speech is not. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), censorship is “the suppression of words, images or ideas that are “offensive,” and it happens “whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others.” Our freedom of expression may be limited, says the ACLU, “only if it will clearly cause direct and imminent harm to an important societal interest.” https://www.thoughtco.com/censorship-in-the-united-states-721221

And the if that does not work for you, remember the big win —San Diego Free Speech case for OOH. (https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/764/metromedia-inc-v-city-of-san-diego)

message for Movia Media

Squeaky clean OOH and handcuffs on creative execution

‘Get your balls off our stage!’ to quote an OOH leader a few years ago on stage at the Austin OOH conference.”  It was in reference to beachballs and yes, she caught grief for that. So much so, that some OOH insiders point to that comment as a turning point to the end in that individual’s employment. Hypocrisy is not new to our Industry.  Note to self and National Advertisers, producing the best possible creative is not really always the best plan; said no one in any other media except so it seems, in OOH.

The top creative guys and gals at the Big 3 should be questioning management on this one. Or just fall in line. “Yes sir, its morally and aesthetic offensive. We agree with our management. No to bananas with condoms!”

What did the Big 3 say in rejecting the creative? Nike?

“Two of them said the banana and condom were sexually explicit. One of them said it was copyright infringement because it was similar to Nike advertisements.”

“At the end of the day, it is just a piece of fruit and latex. Considering the ever-rising rates of sexually transmitted infections in our country, lack of sexual education and access to contraception, we know this is a message that has to stand out and get viewer’s attention to remind them that condoms are still the most effective form of protection against STIs.”

‘Stand out’, with other media.. If advertisers are to consider OOH, before you do, give thought to toning down the creative to its least effective visual. Nike infringement? You can’t be serious!

Jason, what are your thoughts, the AHF’s and those other non profit organizations you communicate with about this decision by OOH’s Big 3? 

“I think it’s a shame that they were not willing to run this very important public health message due to fear of viewer interpretation and baseless claims of copyright infringement. I’m proud of the independent vendors in Los Angeles that took a chance and ran this artwork.”

Jason, you should be proud. I am embarrassed and feel like I should be apologize on behalf of the Industry.

 What are the plans for the future? 

“The campaign is running in LA for four weeks and we will look to possibly expand the campaign to other markets based on the reception.”


Jason, what message would you like to share with OOH Today’s readers? What are your final thoughts?  

“In a landscape dominated by commercial advertising it’s important for the OOH industry to take risks and not censor public health messaging in the public space. Stigma is dangerous, so giving viewers access to the resources they need to be healthy through outdoor advertising should not be censored to the extent that it is.”

Almost final thought

Will the OBIE judges be allowed to consider this creative for the 2024 Conference coming up in San Diego or will the Big 3 shuffle the deck and see that a submission does not make it to the table?  If it’s not named, you’ll have the answer.

Final thought and it’s a reach unless you know what we know

Here’s what we know.

And that is, we will lose a few subscribers with this story and commentary. Typically, anything we publish regarding LGBTQIA+ and AIDS related (a reality in that community unfortunately), we lose a few OOH Owner subscribers. For instance, we lost OOH Owner subscribers and just OOH Owners, when we ran this—America The Beautiful — America The Queer —Live On Billboards Across America —https://oohtoday.com/america-the-beautiful-america-the-queer-live-on-billboards-across-america/  Fortunately very few. I wonder if they have any idea of the number of LGBTQIA+ planners and buyers of OOH who fill their coffers with business?  We have thought about naming them.
Not today.
For the LOVE of OOH and freedom of speech! Remember that?  Please subscribe to the #1 OOH Newsletter.


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  1. Grey vick says

    If they wanted to run nationwide, why not attempt
    To buy from the many family owned independent companies across the company. Many of them would be fine with running the creative. Instead of ranting and complaining get to work and find another option.

  2. Good point Grey Vick. STI’s know no geographical limits, so that’s a fair suggestion. It does beg the question of ‘making OOH easy to buy’. It does require work to plan and buy OOH. As an Industry aren’t we trying to streamline that process? One would think that any OOH National sales organization would be all over this for future opportunities. I am not sure if AHF has the capacity to plan and execute, hence Billups as their OOH placement agency. There has not been too much press about this, MediaPost is the only other publication I saw it in. It does not appear to be a publicity stunt. You’ll note AHF addressed the future saying,
    “The campaign is running in LA for four weeks and we will look to possibly expand the campaign to other markets based on the reception.” Thank you for your comments.

  3. Justin King says

    The writer of this article clearly has no idea how to run a successful billboard company. Vendors often times do not own the land on which the billboard sits. By posting something that may ruffle feathers, you run the risk of infuriating the landowner, the people in the community, and lawmakers. So the next time a vote comes up to restrict billboards or to renew the lease, people are going to remember things like this and say “we don’t want billboards in our community.” Guess what, less billboards, the OOH landscape becomes even more competitive and rates go up. So why would a vendor want to ruin a relationship with a landowner or their community to post a banana that resembles an erect penis with a condom on it. It’s incredibly short-sighted for a vendor to accept something like this just to send a message. There are other ways to more effectively communitcate condom usage. This advertiser has a history of pulling stunts like this just to get a rise our of people (no pun intended).

  4. Bananaymous says

    As clever and creative the ad may be, I can almost guarantee you those two companies rejected the art for a more underlining reason(s). NOT because of the creative visual or the sexual health message it stands for. I’d go with borderline Nike legality as at least one factor. Surely there are many other ways to be creative, stand out and have a big impact on getting the message across. Something as simple as a monkey holding the condom wrap banana looking at it with a big eye’d ‘Oh- face’ would would majorly attract just as much or more.

  5. Thank you for the comment Bananaymous, clever name. We see it different. Appreciate your opinion

  6. Thank you for the comments Justin. Obviously we do not agree. I have successfully run multiple OOH companies in small, mid and major markets with rvenues over the top, not the paltry 4 and 5 % as 2 of the Big 3 seem astonishingly content. While the 3rd of the Big 3 can not get out of its own way. It comes down to how you define success. Playing it safe with flat to negative revenues? NO risk. NO reward. Regarding landowners or lessors, Not every landowner would object and we had thousands of units with various landowners in our larger markets and hundreds in the smaller markets. To say that they all will object to the creative, is a stretch. It’s just not the case. It’s been my experience on both the buy and sell side, OOH if allowed, wants the EASY button on sales and creative like this doesn’t fly. The OOH company just doesn’t want to mess with it. I believe too many of the companies are being run by management with limited sales experience and their numbers show it. Some markets, and companies for that matter, are operations centered and too few are sales centered. If they are not taking this business, it’s a mistake. As for lawmakers and community, if that were true, the more explicit creative on the streets with fashion, music and strip joints would have run the OOH business in the ground decades ago. I can not speak to the advertiser history as a stunt. Isn’t that what advertising is about? AHF is backing up their efforts putting their dollars where their mouths are. I appreciate the opposing opinion.

  7. Fran says

    The more significant issue is the fear of having open conversations about safe sex practices within the US. Surely a banana on a billboard isn’t making someone feel insignificant? Big 3 afraid of a Big D…I mean banana?

  8. “Big 3 afraid of the Big D?” Insignificant or do you mean inadequate ? Thank you for whipping in with the comments Fran.

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