I don’t like browsing through my phone on the way to work. I prefer to sit back, relax, and contemplate the day ahead of me.
This morning, however, my contemplation was distracted by yet another questionable CTA advertisement.
In rather sloppy fashion, the controversial poster (shown below) was plastered across every inch of the ‘L’ car’s interior. To generate buzz for Born Again Virgin, TVone decided to use an extremely provocative pun on words as the show’s tagline. But instead of steering eyeballs, the phrase “She’s got a new vagenda” should only reconfirm the CTA’s lack of material regulation.
“Vagenda” is a terrible play on words, but it’s also an extremely unacceptable message for minors across the city of Chicago. And this morning, a conversation I overheard proved this belief.
As my car pulled up to the Sedgwick stop, a young Asian girl in a wheelchair boarded with her babysitter. From their age difference and interactions with each other, it was pretty evident this wasn’t her mother. The babysitter was probably in her late 20’s, and the little girl was probably about five or six-years-old.
Although the Born Again Virgin advertisements captivated most of my attention, I couldn’t help but overhear the barrage of questions that this innocent toddler was firing at her babysitter.
Eventually, the little girl noticed the provocative banners. Confused, she asked her babysitter about the show.
“What’s it for?” I heard the little girl ask.
As I laughed in my head for a moment, I eagerly anticipated the babysitter’s answer to this awkward question. With a bit of hesitance, she shrugged it off and just told the little girl, “Hmm…I’m not sure.”
Although this morning was an isolated incident, it wasn’t the first time I’ve questioned CTA’s regulation of advertising. Or should I say, lack thereof.
After doing some minor digging, I also learned I’m not the only naysayer. Here’s a concern I found a Chicagoan post on Gamestop, an online publication/forum dedicated to video games:
“I live in Chicago and I rely on the CTA to get around. Naturally, I see a lot of ads plastered on their buses and trains, and also on the inside of them as well. In the past, CTA has complained that ads for GTA IV were inappropriate, and I believe the ads were altered as a result. Recently, there were ads for Red Dead Redemption everywhere that featured the lead character John Marston holding a bounty poster instead of a shotgun like on the box art or in magazines. Most likely this was due to the CTA and their standards. With Mafia 2 however, all the ads have the characters brandishing their weapons while they are standing in a cemetery. Although the ad isn’t too graphic, it seems odd to me that the CTA would allow this and not grant Rockstar a little more leeway with their ads. I may be thinking too hard about this subject, but I would like to know what other people think.”
“After doing some homework on CTA and their advertising policies, I learned that the organization outsources all of their advertising through a company called Titan. Specializing in out-of-home marketing, Titan signed a contract with CTA in 2008 and has facilitated all of their ad-revenue operations ever since.”
According to the agency’s website, Chicago has the second largest public transit system in the U.S. and averages 1.6 million passengers each weekday.
Which makes you wonder, how many other people saw this advertisement today? How many other kids saw this advertisement today?
And while we’re at it, how many other parents or babysitters were forced to answer the same awkward question I overheard this morning – just because CTA didn’t want to pass up a massive deal with Born Again Virgin?
I’m not a hall monitor, nor am I perfect. But when it comes to harboring the innocence of our country’s youth, I’m pretty impatient to ignorance.
Ignorant or not, the advertisements for Born Again Virgin are more shreds of evidence of CTA advertising gaffes. A few years ago, one Chicagoan created a petition for the CTA to take down the anti-Muslim advertisements plastered across city buses.
You may also recall when CTA ran a series of advertisements for “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell” – the book about perverted blogger/frat star, Tucker Max.
Using slogans like “Deaf Girls Can’t Hear You Coming” and “Strippers Will Not Tolerate Disrespect (Just Kidding!),” the campaign created a wake of controversy among commuters alike. In fact, it stirred so much buzz that the CTA quickly removed them from 250 different city buses.
As you can see, “She’s got a new vagenda” is just the most recent example of unacceptable messaging that’s found it’s way onto Chicago’s public transportation. And according to Ordinance No. 013-63 (the city’s most current statement of advertising guidelines), this advertisement also breaks the rules.
According to the document, the CTA’s fundamental purpose in accepting transit advertising is to “generate revenue to augment the CTA’s operating budget.” While that’s great and all, the document also states that these policies are intended to provide clear guidance as to the “types of advertisements that will allow the CTA to generate revenue and enhance transit operations by preserving the marketing potential of the advertising space by avoiding content that the community could view as offensive, inappropriate or harmful to the public generally or to minors in particular.”
In English, the advertisement for Born Again Virgin breaks the rules set by the CTA themselves. In the aforementioned ordinance, the CTA claims that advertising is prohibited on transit facilities and transit vehicles if it includes any of the following content:
- Adult films rated “X” or “NC-17”, television rated “MA” or video games rated “A” or “M.”
- Adult book stores, adult video stores, nude dance clubs and other adult entertainment establishments.
- Adult telephone services, adult internet sites and escort services.
- Advertising depicting nudity, sexual conduct or sexual excitement. The terms “nudity,” “sexual conduct,” and “sexual excitement” have the same meanings herein as in 720 ILCS 5/11-21(a) (2011) and as such law may be amended, modified or supplemented.
According to 720 ILCS 5/11-21(a) (2011), ‘sexual conduct’ is defined as “acts of masturbation, sexual intercourse, or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks or, if such person be a female, breast.”
“Vagenda” might not be offensive to you, but you’re not a kid. You weren’t confused by this advertisement, but the little girl on my ‘L’ this morning was.
Every kid will eventually learn about the birds and the bees, that’s true. But there’s a time and place for that to happen, and I assure you, the Brown Line with your babysitter is not one of them.
I’m not saying the CTA needs to take down these ads, and I’m not saying the revenue gained from it doesn’t benefit the city.
I’m just saying, maybe someone should start regulating them.