A New Ad With Rear Ends, Not So Naked
And now for a bit of chastity.
As we reported this month, the Times Square Church, a 20-year-old interdenominational congregation, went to court and obtained a temporary restraining order preventing Toto, a maker of consumer plumbing products, from putting up an advertisement for its Washlet line of bidets on the side of 1657 Broadway, an office tower where the church rents space. The ad showed a row of naked buttocks, with smiling faces drawn on them.
In a court affidavit, Neil Rhodes, the church’s associate pastor, called the row of buttocks “indecent for public display,” “certainly unsuited for public exposure to children” and “antithetical to the values of our congregation and church.”
Van Wagner, the outdoor advertising company that was trying to put the ad up, disagreed. In a memo filed in State Supreme Court, its lawyer Adam C. Silverstein wrote: “The advertisement is not obscene or pornographic. It is not sexually suggestive. And it does not promote an immoral or indecent message or product.” Bare buttocks, he noted, can be seen on network television and at the public library.
Well, all that is water under the bridge now.
Under an agreement filed on Friday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Toto and Van Wagner agreed not to put up the offending ad and as a result the lawsuit was declared moot. It was dismissed without prejudice, meaning that the church could file a new lawsuit if it wanted to.
As The New York Post reported today, Toto has instead put up a less revealing advertisement. The buttocks are now covered with a white strip and the words, “Our bottom line” and “Clean is happy. No ifs, ands or…” The Post quotes Lenora Campos, a spokeswoman, as saying, “Our thought-provoking ‘Clean is Happy’ billboard is not intended to offend.”
The Daily News quotes Ms. Campos as saying, the ad was changed because “it was not achieving its goal … to raise awareness of the product.”
Ms. Campos sent us a statement that read:
Toto indicated the decision to alter the Times Square billboard’s content was motivated by its business objectives for the “Clean is Happy” campaign. As the company pointed out, an effective outdoor advertising billboard’s sole purpose is to create consumer awareness for the product being marketed. When a billboard’s content or theme creates a situation whereby its primary marketing aim — in this case, advertising the Washlet and raising U.S. consumer awareness of this unique personal cleansing system — becomes secondary to distractions that draw attention away from the company’s business goals, it’s time to change the advertising.
The “happy bottoms” billboard is an element in Toto’s new Washlet integrated marketing campaign, which is designed to challenge the status quo in bathroom habits and personal hygiene in the U.S. by encouraging people to make their backsides happy and wash with water after using the restroom. The campaign’s central concept combines the part of the body the Washlet is designed to cleanse with the universal icon for happiness, a smile.