TORONTO, June 9, 2011 – The League was recently advised that the Advertising Council of Canada (ASC) has upheld, on appeal, the League’s complaint about some outdoor advertising by Virgin Radio earlier this year in the Toronto area. The campaign included a series of billboards directed at the young, some featuring female pop stars such as Britney Spears and Katie Perry, and a second series with Usher that included the phrases “OMG” and “OMFG”. (“OMG” is a social media acronym for “Oh, my God”, while “OMFG” adds a well-known obscenity.)

Our complaint that some of the posters were degrading to women was dismissed, with the council stating they were within accepted community standards. On the Usher billboards, however, council agreed that the effect of the billboards was in violation of the ASC’s Code 14d, which states that portrayals must not “undermine human dignity; or display obvious indifference to, or encourage, gratuitously and without merit, conduct or attitudes that offend the standards of public decency prevailing among a significant segment of the population.”

The advertiser appealed, claiming among other things that the ad was directed at a youth demographic which would not find it offensive. In our reply, we pointed out that a billboard allows no targeting and confronts people whether they want to see it or not. “The fact that words, acronyms and images might be acceptable on a hand-held device or a web page does not make them acceptable on a medium that the consumer cannot turn off, close or choose not to attend.”