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'Pornographic' Salon Billboard Removed

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By Rebecca Pray

Roseville, CA-based salon chain California Sun is enjoying the unanticipated press benefits that came with running a sexy 12-by-24-foot billboard. In it, model Nicole Duminie sports a white bikini and cowboy boots while laying on a giant granite rock with Folsom Lake in the backdrop.

Although the image has been on display on a Sacramento billboard for a month – without incident – the ad received a less enthusiastic welcome in Auburn. Within days of premiering there, someone covered the signage, located off Highway 49, with a black tarp displaying a spray-painted message to the effect of “No porn in our town.” Later that day, a pet-adoption message replaced the sexy sunbather.

In a thread on www.tantoday.com, the salon’s co-owner Mike Blore shares, “CBS pulled the board without one call and no notification.” However, he and his wife Ashleigh were far from disappointed with the company’s decision to yank their advertisement. He says the resulting media frenzy brought major press attention to the salon.

Most salon owners we asked – and those citizens who saw the ad and commented on it in the media – were stumped by the comparison to pornography. Even this sometimes-conservative “grammy” has to admit the ad is tasteful and the model looks beautiful, fit and tan.

Controversial ads are nothing new in the media; however, it can be surprising, particularly for indoor tanning salon owners, when a seemingly innocent ad campaign draws this kind of backlash. After all, it isn’t every day that a billboard gets defaced based on moral grounds – and then replaced without ever consulting the paying customer. We have heard a few stories from salon owners through the years, however, who received public complaints based on the use of a sexy bikini model in their newspaper ads or coupons.

As a salon owner, you have to determine your marketing messaging – as well as weighing the probability of offending the community you serve. There’s a fine line between getting people to talk – and watching a bunch of them decide to walk. Next time you get ready to launch some imaging, make sure you thoroughly think things through and get objective outside input. You can’t anticipate every backlash, but at least you won’t be as likely to get blindsided – particularly in a case like this, where there was no blatant intention of creating a controversy.

The Blores have more than 20 locations in California and a couple in Nevada, so they’ve done their fair share of advertising. As far as the scandal in Auburn, Mike still maintains it was the “best ad we EVER did ... lol.” You may not see the now-famous billboard in Auburn, but you can see a picture of it here.

Rebecca Pray is the Program Administrator for the National Tanning Training Institute (NTTI), which provides online tanning certification 24/7 with no membership fee.

Sources

The Sacramento Bee: Auburn bikini billboard furor adds PR value, analysts say

The Sacramento Bee: Bikini billboard makes them blush in Auburn

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