Billboard Diagramming Female Flaws Causes Backlash

A billboard depicting a model wearing little more than a shirt has drawn the ire of the women of Glenview, IL. From the Chicago Tribune:

The 10-foot-by-36-foot sign along Willow Road near Patriot Boulevard depicts a model lying on the beach with lines pointing to “problem” areas on her body, such as facial lines and wrinkles, and corresponding “solutions,” including Botox.

By Tuesday, more than 300 people had signed petitions asking the owners of the salon and medical spa to replace the billboard, Thibeau said.

Salon owner Pascal Ibgui said the billboard promoting Pascal Pour Elle and Skin Deep Medical Spa is simply an ad.

“No, I will not bring it down,” said Ibgui, a Paris native, who added that the sign is modest compared to what might appear in France. “I will leave it up.”

The spa owner claims that the billboard appeals to his male client

le: “I don’t want to sound like a chauvinistic pig, but this is a man’s world,” he said. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but I’m so big in the business that if I lose a handful of clients, we’ll get some new ones.” —MEGHANN MARCO

Spa billboard called racy and all wrong [Chicago Tribune]
(Photo: Chicago Tribune)

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  1. catnapped says:

    I wonder if the spa owner is married and if so, does his wife have a poster outside the house showing his “problem areas” (beer gut, bird legs, small weenie, etc)???

  2. jeffj-nj says:

    The only thing “wrong” with the woman on that billboard is her unavailability.

  3. Ideapimp says:

    Funniest part is, if anyone slowed down enough to read that much copy they’d be responsible for tons of accidents too.

    Best billboard for one of these clinics I ever saw just had the name of the clinic and a clock that ran backwards. That was it.

  4. jeffj-nj says:

    A. If he’s married, it’s likely to someone who understands the billboard was meant as all billboards are – to market. No one who has ideas like that one winds up married to someone who wouldn’t “allow him” to have them.

    B. I doubt he has any “problem areas” he hasn’t already “fixed” cosmetically.

  5. scoobydoo says:

    With the exception of his comment about it being a “mans world” I love his attitude. Good to see that some people won’t put up with the Prude PC gone insane world this country has become.

  6. phrygian says:

    He’s appealing to his male clientèle by posting a billboard full of women’s “problem areas”? If he’s trying to convince husbands/boyfriends to buy “solutions” for their significant others’ “problem areas,” I predict a lot of break-ups and a lot of returned gift certificates.

  7. Skiffer says:

    I understand how some people might not like the ad…but guess what? It’s a freaking ad, and there’s nothing obscene about it.

    This is along the lines of the Cocaine-named energy drink a while back – If you’re not part or the target audience, chances are that you’re not going to be fond of the marketing strategies.

    I don’t think the people complaining about this ad were ever really in the market for cosmetic surgery.

    But there’s nothing objectively wrong with it…

    By their arguing, I don’t like gas-guzzling SUVs…so should all SUV commercials be considered offensive?

  8. DashTheHand says:

    I’m glad hes keeping it up as well. More than likely the same people that are complaining are the women that wouldn’t mind gawking at a CK boxer brief ad on the same billboard.

    I’m SO INSANELY TIRED of all the PC attitudes and mandates the United States is putting on everyone else. Stop telling me what is bad for me, what I can and cannot look at, and go home and screw your own family up.

  9. bombaxstar says:

    So I guess 300+ people in the Glenview area couldn`t find anything better to bitch about?

  10. hopers says:

    I don’t think that women are being overly PC in saying that the billboard is offensive. It looks like the problem is that the ad takes a woman who is already gorgeous and points out all of her “flaws.” It’s incredibly insulting to women who aren’t a size 0, with perfect skin. Basically, it says “if this model has problems, then you are seriously ugly.”

  11. slapstick says:

    He sure doesn’t want to sound like what he sounds like!

  12. joemono says:

    I love it when people say things like “I don’t mean to sound ______, but (the next thing I’m about to say will be exactly that).”

  13. UnStatusTheQuo says:

    It’s Glenview. I’m sure it’s appropriately targeted marketing as Glenview is not exactly the land of slum.

    And maybe just to show them how ridiculous they are, we can start a petition to KEEP it up. I’m sure we can find more than 300 to sign a petition for that.

  14. Hawkins says:

    Well, not so fast.

    I think that part of the issue here is that it’s not a print ad, where you can turn the page, or a radio spot, where you can change the channel, but a billboard, which you’re pretty much forced to look at it every time you drive by.

    I would be fine with being forced to look at her every day on the way to work, but I can see how the fact that it’s so literally in your face may irk some people who don’t like the message.

    In many communities billbard advertising is tightly regulated. And Sao Paolo recently banned billboards altogether: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/12/12/news/brazil.php
    Good for them!

  15. Wormfather says:

    So he shoudl take the billboard down because of the way it makes some people “feel”. God this society can be messed up. If that’s the case I’m demanding that The View, Oprah and all ABC News Programs be shut down. Dr. Phil can stay, I like him.

  16. Joe Hass says:

    The billboard is coming down, not by choice of the advertiser, but by the billboard company itself, Clear Channel Outdoor, according to the Chicago Tribune

    Quoting the article: “Paul Meyer, president of Phoenix-based Clear Channel Outdoor, said Friday his company retains the right to reject any copy that is considered inappropriate.”

    Which leads to the blatently obvious question: what changed from the original clearance process to Friday, Mr. Meyer?

  17. Landru says:

    I don’t know that it should be taken down, but yes it is offensive to me, particularly with the effect such advertising has on young girls.

    And yes, all SUV ads are offensive.

  18. mopar_man says:

    Maybe it’s just me but I don’t see what’s inappropriate about that. She’s not naked, you can’t see through her shirt, you can’t actually see anything that the public has deemed inappropriate. So it points out problem areas. I also see that it says what the solution is, which is what this business does (solves problem areas). Some people need to get a life. And Mr. Meyer is obviously a spineless coward if he’s going to remove this ad. That same thing goes for everybody else who is bending over to make everybody happy. Here’s an idea: offend a few people and cater to the people who will actually support your business and give you money. It seems to have worked for the last 100 years or so that public advertising has been around.

  19. mopar_man says:

    @Landru:

    What the hell? What effect is it having on young girls? You must live in Glenview.

  20. Buran says:

    @scoobydoo: Ignoring PC-ness is one thing. Ignoring the wishes of the community is another.

    He’s an ass.

  21. I’m generally not all that self-righteous on these matters, but isn’t there any sort of complaint that the ad, I dunno, is an itemized list of “flaws” that serves to objectify women?

    Screw the partial nudity, the actual content of the ad is pretty offensive, and it really takes a lot to move my needle in that direction. I’m all for people choosing cosmetic surgery if that pleases them, but I don’t feel very good about an advertiser telling people that they’re inherently broken and need fixing.

  22. Snakeophelia says:

    Her lovely body on the billboard is not offensive. The suggestion that anyone who is as lovely as this is nonetheless “problematic” is highly offensive. Clinics that advertise like this are preying on the low self-esteem of women. Good Lord, if she has so many problem areas, what hope must the rest of us have? Are we supposed to rush to this spa and hand over all of our money, right away?

    My suggestion? A dueling billboard, which features this model and other more imperfect women, flipping off Mr. Igbui and informing the world that they plan to spend their money on better things.

  23. Triteon says:

    @Joe Hass: what changed from the original clearance process to Friday, Mr. Meyer?
    It’s fairly standard for media vendors to hold the right to refuse ads “after the fact”. (I’ve experienced this twice in my career, though with copy and creative images for beverage ads.) In terms of decency, the problem could be an adherence (perceived or otherwise) to “community standards”– the loose, undefined “values” that exist only whenever they’re necessary.

  24. spanky says:

    @DashTheHand:

    More than likely the same people that are complaining are the women that wouldn’t mind gawking at a CK boxer brief ad on the same billboard.

    Ah, the time-honored Argument from Speculation of Future Hypocrisy.

    While your logic is airtight and all, it seems at least as likely that it’s religious conservatives complaining, rather than the bitter and cartoonishly hypocritical women you’ve conjured.

  25. Gopher bond says:

    “an advertiser telling people that they’re inherently broken and need fixing.”

    Umm, yeah, that’s basically the whole advertising industry, in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past 65 years or so.

  26. Slytherin says:

    “…a Paris native, who added that the sign is modest compared to what might appear in France.”

    This comment basically hit the nail on the head. In Europe, you will see much more racey ads and commercials. What the f**k with the U.S. being so prude?! We have become a country of too easily offended and too politically correct pussies.

  27. kerry says:

    @Skiffer:

    I don’t think the people complaining about this ad were ever really in the market for cosmetic surgery.

    I know a lot of women from Glenview. Trust me, they’re in the market for cosmetic surgery.

  28. mopar_man says:

    We have become a country of too easily offended and too politically correct pussies.

    That about sums it up right there.

    @kerry:

    HA! Thanks for the laugh. :D

  29. oldhat says:

    I don’t want to sound stupid, but people from Paris smell like sweaty socks.

    I don’t want to sound hungry, but I’d really like to eat something.

    I don’t want to sound like a lecher, but wow that chick is fine and mmmm what I’d like to do with her.

    I don’t want to sound insightful, but the target of this ad is definitely women, as the vast majority of plastic surgeons clients are women, and the ad is preying on the insecurities of women, but cleverly giving dudes some eye candy.

    Say what you mean, Dr. Jerk.

  30. Chicago7 says:

    It’s a ClearChannel ad! I wonder if Rush Limbaugh is outraged!!!

    And yes, probably HALF of the North Shore women are in the market for cosmetic surgery.

  31. notebook says:

    Maybe it’s more about how people are thinking, “If this woman who is a beautiful model is ‘imperfect’ then what does that make me?”

    Self esteem takes another blow. Ouch. Considering that you can’t really avoid looking at it, and that some younger people are really impressionable.

  32. ScramDiggyBooBoo says:

    With that kind of attitude i bet he gets all the ladies. What kind of customer service is that anyhow, basically, we could give a god damn about our customers, aren’t happy..got more that are..see ya!! WTF?

  33. I think the model is supposed to be an after picture not a before picture. It’s showing where she did have the surgery not where she still needs it.

    The text in the bubbles do make it sound like it’s a before image though. It’s like the visual equivalent of bad grammer. Why didn’t they do a before AND after picture?

    “I don’t want to sound like a chauvinistic pig,

    but you will anyway because that’s what you are.

  34. clodia says:

    My opinion is this: it is in horrid taste, and I wish it had not been put up. I will be very glad when it is taken down. Also – the owner is disgusting.

    However – since it is not illegal, and he has not agreed to take it down, it shouldn’t be taken down.

    I’m not offended by the “raciness” of it, just the idea that a woman that looks like that actually has imperfections! Jeez, I’m at normal weight, but I bet they’d just put a picture up with the words “fat cow” on it.

    And yes, I am not in any way in the market for plastic surgery.

  35. jeffj-nj says:

    @notebook: You are not a beautiful snowflake.

  36. oldhat says:

    How come I don’t hear any complaints about the media pushing “impossible to attain and unhealthy” body images of men?

    WAAAA! Society wants women to be slim and pretty! Also, it wants men to be rich, handsome and have washboard abs!

    Oh the injustice! Won’t somebody think of the children?!? (while we sit on our asses getting fat, eating crap, and driving up the cost of healthcare)

    If I have to work out and make a lot of money to get a woman, you bitches better be starving yourselves, too!

  37. jeblis says:

    Precisely because women get pissed off about this, is why it will work. A plastic surgeon makes his livelihood off of the insecurities of women.

  38. aparsons says:

    760 views on consumerist so far… looks like his ad was well worth the money…

  39. saram says:

    I’m finding myself getting fairly riled up reading some of these comments . . . thankfully a few of you have attempted to shed some light on why this type of ad is harmful.

  40. royal72 says:

    never mind the damn billboard, hurry up with our mcdonald’s salads, i’m hungry.

  41. lemur says:

    No matter what the guy intended with his ad… when I saw the ad, I thought “That woman has no visible imperfection but they are saying she needs plastic surgery? WTF?”

    I support the spa owner’s right to put is ad up but I also support the citizen’s right to petition for its removal.

    As for myself, I like my women real. The typical pre- and post-processed models who appear in ads for me represent fakeness of the highest degree.

  42. Slytherin says:

    @saram: If a billboard/ad/commerical/whatever causes an individual to feel insecure about themselves, then they have a lot of personal issues which will need to be brought up to the attention of a therapist, not the person who put up the ad. Taking an ad down is not going to help their deep-rooted issues.

  43. SOhp101 says:

    I honestly don’t see what’s wrong with the ad. The woman actually doesn’t appear to have any of those problems, or they seem unnoticeable.

    From an ad design perspective it’s a pretty bad ad. But it is getting a lot of attention in the community so that makes it a huge success.

  44. bluwapadoo says:
  45. bohemian says:

    I don’t have a problem with nudity (or near nudity) in advertising.

    I do have an issue with the mentality of the ad and they salon owner. Targeted at men? Like they should get their woman detailed just like they do their car?

    These ads prey on the insecurities of women who feel vulnerable already about their youth and their looks. Because younger women and teens are more insecure they can have an even worse effect.

    There is already too much blurring the lines between beauty services and medical services. Lots of salons are teaming up with doctors or clinic groups to open these beauty salon monsters that combine typical salon services with plastic surgery and botox etc.

  46. slapstick says:

    @oldhat: You don’t have to do all that to get a woman. Just get a personality tuck! They can take everything undesirable out and leave you with, um…

    Well, every woman needs a purse holder.

  47. Mary says:

    I think it’s glaringly obvious that the problem with the ad isn’t that the woman is scantily clad, and the fact that he’s missing that point shows that I wouldn’t chose to do business with that man.

    It’s insulting to say a woman that beautiful still isn’t good enough. I realize that’s what advertising does, but it IS hurting American girls and it IS a problem. Numerous pyschological studies are showing that advertising like this are causing problems in girls from eating disorders to depression.

    It’s a crude advertising strategy and I would hope that rather than insist on taking the billboard down, from now on people say “Yes, you have the right to have a billboard like that. We also have the right to stop using your service.” Business owners rarely understand what they’ve done wrong until you cause an economic impact.

  48. TinaT says:

    @lemur: That was my reaction too. I don’t care what she’s not wearing, but it’s stupid to say that a woman with that body needs plastic surgery. And if the public put enough pressure on Clear Channel to get the billboard taken down, good for them. There is no constitutional right to billboard advertising, nor should there be. It’s ugly and intrusive, and lowers the property values all around it.

  49. Buran says:

    @mopar_man: We should not be promoting nearly-impossible-to-accomplish “values” on children. It’s unhealthy and ridiculous.

  50. lemur says:

    I looked at the link provided by bluwapadoo. Shows that there were complaints about that ad for divorce lawyers too.

    I noted how the divorce lawyer said the ad increased business and so on an so forth. I would take such claims of increased business in both cases with a lot of skepticism. I just can’t imagine the person who put the ad up admit: “Yeah, people protested and our business just went down the shitter.” In both cases, we’re talking about private companies. They don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves so that kind of statement can go unchecked. (Publicly traded companies need to be much more careful about that kind of statement because they answer to the shareholders.)

  51. saram says:

    @Slytherin:

    Wow. Saying that any woman who is affected by these types of ads needs therapy? That is really respectful of you.

    I do understand advertising, insecurities, etc. And I’m also working on my MA in psychology right now. So I understand a bit about people who need therapy.

  52. saram says:

    @Slytherin:

    And I’m not sure if it was meant to be in response to what I had said, but I did not advocate for the removal of the sign.

  53. Musician78 says:

    That’s awesome that he refuses to remove the sign. I wouldn’t either.

  54. Nearsite00 says:

    Wow, now they’re getting EVEN more advertising and for FREE!

  55. juri squared says:

    You’re a little behind (no pun intended) – ClearChannel has already ordered the ad pulled.

  56. MaliBoo Radley says:

    If the problem is the fact that you can see her ass … get over it! What is it with American’s and their denial of (yet obsession with) the human body. Everyone, if they’re lucky, has a tushy. Sometimes you might actually see one. You also might occasionaly see a pair of breasts (again, if you’re lucky).

    Also, it’s not so bad if children see a naked body … after all, childred have bodies too. Perhaps if children were exposed to a bit more nudity when they’re little (not porn), they might grow up to be more well adjusted, less uptight adults.

  57. lemur says:

    @jurijuri: Interesting but I’m still not sure we’re being given the real story here.

    If the ad is objectionable to Clear Channel, why did it go up in the first place? Don’t they check their ads before they go up?

    What is the precise reason for which Clear Channel is removing the ad now? Do they have a fairly wide notion of what objectionable means? Do they make contracts with a clause that if the community objects, Clear Channel can cancel the contract? I could see how they might want that in their contract.

    Perhaps the owners of the medical spa were in fact hurt by all the bad publicity (contrary to what they claimed) and decided to pull the ad while still claiming to the press that it is really a great ad and that they want to keep it up there.

  58. animeredith says:

    I had a long comment all planned out, but then I realized I would probably get bashed like all these others people that ‘dared’ to say that this is an offensive ad that will have an adverse effect on women, who already have a huge bucketful of self-esteem/body issues thanks to advertising.

    I had no idea consumerist.com readers were so misogynistic.

  59. EtherealStrife says:

    I’m offended by seeing normal looking women on billboards.

    What a load of crap this is. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: political correctness is bs. The sign is just doing what every advertisement does that depicts women. It’s just a little less subtle. Hopefully Pascal fights this.

  60. saram says:

    @animeredith:

    i feel you. i’m shocked at some of these responses.

  61. Charles Duffy says:

    @saram: Me too — and I’m male.

    If they’d taken away the text (except for their name, thus implying this kind of results as an “after” picture), it’d be fine. If the model was in fact a patient (and thus this actually was an “after” picture), at least.

    With the text, it’s in extremely poor taste, and I fail to see how folks here don’t realize it.

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  63. enm4r says:

    @Charles Duffy: I was under the impression that it was an after picture. But I guess that wasn’t clearly laid out.

    Even if it isn’t, there is a clear difference in being in poor taste and something being wrong. Is the add in poor taste? Does it offend people? Sure, but when did it become everyones’ right to never be offended?

    I’m offended by the obese airline passenger that didn’t buy two seats and needs to lift up the arm rest on either side just so they can fit into the seat area, but I dealt with it. Some people will be offended that I later complained and laughed at that persons expense. Obviously I don’t care, and don’t need to make apologies for it. Neither should the ad agency. But of course they will to avoid any negative press.

  64. Chicago7 says:

    @oldhat:

    “WAAAA! Society wants women to be slim and pretty! Also, it wants men to be rich, handsome and have washboard abs!”

    I’ve got to get working on the “rich” part, dammit. Don’t forget “tall”!

    Hahahaha!

  65. MaliBoo Radley says:

    @Charles Duffy:

    I disagree that it’s in poor taste .. but even if it is, it’s still effective!

  66. Slytherin says:

    All (especially to saram), I just find it extremely hard to understand how an inanimate object like an ad or billboard, in “black & white”, can suddenly make someone feel insecure or down about themselves. The ad is not the problem, it’s the individual who has deep-rooted issues about themselves in which every little thing they see or hear affects them in a negative manner. Hence my comment about therapy…that’s the only thing that will help an individual overcome such issues, not just a removal of said inanimate object from sight.

  67. Gloria says:

    @EtherealStrife: If she’s what “normal-looking” women look like in your town, I want to move there!

  68. Havok154 says:

    I’ll have to agree with everyone above who said that being PC has gone too far and needs to stop….now

  69. MissKissLock says:

    Heh. I worked for a laser chain in NYC affiliated (as far as I know recently) with Skin Deep and I am SO NOT SURPRISED to see this. I had to laugh. My first piece of mail there was an angry letter from a Ms. reader. Good times.

  70. Mary says:

    “All (especially to saram), I just find it extremely hard to understand how an inanimate object like an ad or billboard, in “black & white”, can suddenly make someone feel insecure or down about themselves. The ad is not the problem, it’s the individual who has deep-rooted issues about themselves in which every little thing they see or hear affects them in a negative manner. Hence my comment about therapy…that’s the only thing that will help an individual overcome such issues, not just a removal of said inanimate object from sight.”

    I would love to live in your world, where nothing anybody ever said anywhere ever affected you in the slightest.

    Try being a fat middle class female in a middle school in America. It makes you care an awful lot about these things.

    Psychological studies HAVE shown detrimental effects of this kind of advertising.

    And yes, I am in fact in therapy. My therapist thankfully understands that people actually care what others think, and if others are saying that the woman on this billboard isn’t good enough, then there’s no way in hell I ever will be.

    And if you think about it, this man is making his money on insecurities and people wishing they were something else so as to attract a mate or make their spouse like them better. So he’s counting on those insecurities to make money, so he obviously thinks they’re there and valid, he wants you to be insecure.

    People care what others think, including advertisers. Pretending otherwise, well, it’s all well and good for you, kudos and all that.

    I’ve never personally met somebody who could actually claim that.

  71. Slytherin says:

    @meiran: “I’ve never personally met somebody who could actually claim that.”

    Hi! So we finally meet at last! :)

  72. DTWD says:

    Complaining does nothing. They should just kill it with fire.(Not that I condone it, but I’m a pyromaniac)

  73. ibelli says:

    If you don’t see anything wrong with that billboard you are:

    A.) An idiot

    B.) Representative of a certain percentage of the worlds population who’s death is required — and with you your errant, illogical and suffocating ideas — in order for our society to mature.

  74. palaste says:

    First I thought this was another case of feminists getting their knickers in a twist just because they saw a woman in an advertisement. But after reading these comments, I suppose the reason isn’t that, it’s that it is unfairly degrading the female body by pointing out its “defects”. That I can agree with, because it’s a solid explanation and not just a knee-jerk “objectification!” reaction.

  75. Musician78 says:

    Hmmm. I thought it was an “after” picture as well. But I still wouldn’t take it down. Get a thicker skin people. Everyone makes fun of balding fat men with no obvious skills, ans guess what, I am that man (aside from musical skills–but where will that get me. Anyway, I too make fun of balding overweight guys. Jesus, sorry is some people here are fat and insecure, and easily offended, but that is what happens when you can’t keep your hands off the twinkies. Or in my case, Ben and Jerry’s.

  76. opposablethumbs says:

    Why isn’t anyone discussing the gender roles and rape culture that this promotes?

    He said that it is targeted at the men. So, men realize that their wife/girlfriend/mistress/whatever can look like this model and decide to buy her a nose job for Christmas. Cute. Then I suppose she should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen while he brings home the bacon.

    For some reason I had the idea that society was actually changing for the better. Guess not.

  77. palaste says:

    @opposablethumbs: Yes, heaven forbid that men should have any standards, opinions or preferences about women’s appearances. In today’s 100% gender-equal society, women have every right to expect men to look like Adonis, but if a man expresses his taste in women’s appearance in any way, he’s automatically a chauvinistic pig.
    That was hyperbole, but it illustrates my general opinion on the gender issues.
    Of course, this particular billboard is taking it too far, but I don’t see anything wrong with advertising women’s beauty products and services in general.

  78. opposablethumbs says:

    My major problem was with the owner’s comment that ‘the billboard appeals to his male clientèle.’

    Also, beauty products and services are slightly different than surgery. I too put on make-up and like to feel ‘pretty.’

    However, I wouldn’t want my boyfriend to tell me I need to wear more make-up to cover up my ‘problem areas’. Just as no man should tell a woman (especially if they are in a relationship) that her breasts aren’t large enough, or that her tummy isn’t firm enough, or that she has too many wrinkles by her eyes.

    If a woman chooses surgery for herself, that’s fine. But it becomes a serious problem when someone she desires approval from makes it for her.

  79. palaste says:

    @opposablethumbs: If you are saying that it’s all right for men to want women to look more beautiful, but not to demand it by, for example, buying cosmetic surgery for them, then I agree.

  80. YodeeOdee says:

    Is it just me, or is this billboard missing an arrow? One pointing to her feet declaring: “No Heels” “We Also Recommend Posture And Appeal Enhancing Footwear”…after all, they’re just cloning a men’s magazine photo layout and you don’t do a serious one unless the nice lady is decked out in eye-catching sandals…