A church has won its battle against a bidet company's racy billboard - and a sanitized version of the cheeky "happy bottoms" ad was put up on the Times Square building that houses the church over the weekend.
The original ad was to have featured an array of bare bottoms with smiley faces painted over them - the idea being that the bottoms were happy from having used the Washlet, a bidet/toilet seat that uses water and warm air to clean its customers.
The Times Square Church, located at 51st Street and Broadway, sued to keep the billboard from being installed.
"You walk into a church building [and] you have naked bodies before your eyes - how are you going to close your eyes and seek God?" the church's pastor, Neil Rhodes, had argued.
A judge signed an order temporarily blocking the ad earlier this month, and the suit ended in a settlement announced yesterday after Washlet-maker Toto apparently saw the light and agreed to have the rear ends covered up.
The new version has a white bar going across the bottoms, "in effect 'clothing' them by removing any hint of their anatomical features," the company said in a statement. The ad now reads: "This is our bottom line," and, "Clean is happy. No ifs, ands, or . . ."
The story rings a bell because I seem to remember an uproar quite a few years ago when a local Rabbi led a protest against the very racy, lifesize ads that were prominently displayed in the window of the local (now closed) branch of the Victoria's Secret lingerie chain.
Honestly, I thought those who protested were 100% justified in that case, and I think the church is just as justified in this one. I myself have had real reservations about heading into Manhattan via certain routes when I have my kids in the car due to what we can call the "billboard situation". I have seen billboards with three-story high photographic reproductions of literally naked models - both male and female - located alongside certain Manhattan approaches. These billboards appear to be advertising items that seem to be depicted nowhere in the frame of the billboard itself (perhaps the models have just taken the advertisers' clothing off - touting to potential buyers their own chances of finding themselves in similar circumstances if they only buy whatever the company's selling? Or perhaps the models are wearing only the perfumes being advertised - and need nothing else?). Either way, I hardly need to introduce my children to the specifics of human anatomy while on a family trip to see dinosaur bones (yeah, yeah, I know - but let's not discuss the dinosaur issue in this thread).
Anyone ever walk through SoHo? The intersection of Broadway, Lafayette and Houston may have some of the absolute most not-safe-for-children's-eyes images plastered across the sides of buildings. Two-story-high cleavage, anyone? I know that advertising is all about the catching the customer's eye. I understand that the more outrageous an ad is, the more memorable to the potential customers it's trying to snare. But in my opinion, billboards have gotten way out of hand. The art of subtlety has clearly been lost - or at the very least, has fallen way out of favor.
It's one thing for these ads to be in the middle of a magazine, where a customer can exercise free will in his or her choice to peruse it. But the days of racy magazine ads causing anyone to bat an eyelash are long gone. Does anyone remember the uproar, way back when, over Calvin Klein's "racy" magazine ads? I think we can all agree that those ads, which were buried in the pages of fashion magazines, were small potatoes compared to the recent billboard I saw for the clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch. Let's just say that the model's pants were so low rise that there were probably 2 production assistants on hand hired expressly to hold the pants up for the photo shoot.
Bottom line? I applaud anyone who protests the use of bare behinds to advertise on a billboard - or bare anything. I'm not a prude. As I noted, I don't object to the use of these images in magazines or other such places, which allow individuals to choose not to look. But shouldn't I be allowed to decide whether I want my preadolescent children to be introduced to images that likely would have been considered soft-core pornography not too many decades ago? And shouldn't that choice not to have to entail taking a different route into Manhattan or steering clear of certain intersections? I wish it would.