Positioned perfectly, visible to anyone (is that a lint remover? A space-age microphone? A...sex toy?!) getting off at the 427 or braving the Gardiner, a billboard appeared quietly over the Toronto-bound QEW. Popsicle pink lettering invites you to Scream Your Own Name, our PinkCherry logo lets you know where to get it fast, and Womanizer’s Liberty Clitoral Stimulator (also pink) stands tall on the right. The billboard went up over a month ago, but last week it got noticed, big time!
Question: do you remember the last billboard that caught your eye? I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I noticed one. I kind of remember one for beer - Molson, maybe? - and I’m speaking as someone who regularly makes the trek into downtown Toronto from the west end. With so much of marketing shifting online, the concept of a billboard seems a little old-school, no? Our collective attention span has devolved way past the point of being affected by something as simple as a giant sign, right? That was my opinion, when I thought about billboards at all (not often), but I’m happy to report that I was wrong.
The billboard in question, a collab between PinkCherry, Wow Tech Group (makers of the Womanizer) and Canadian ad agency The Garden, went up without much fanfare a few weeks back. We were all holding our breath, expecting at least a little controversy given the subtly sexual nature of the ad, but none came. The billboard didn’t get pulled. Instead, it broke a record. After three consecutive weeks, it’s the longest standing sex related billboard ad in North America. It’s also being called the best billboard of 2019, and since we’re less than a quarter of the way into the year, that’s kind of huge!
Last week, media outlets at home and away (blogTO, Adweek, Daily Hive etc.) began picking up the story of our still-standing billboard. According to comment boards and almighty social media, people are loving the ad’s not-so-subtle promotion of sexual pleasure! Of course, we've seen a few comments pearl-clutching about ‘inappropriateness,’ but not many. Are people finally cluing into the fact that there’s nothing weird, deviant or socially unacceptable (at all!) about promoting pleasure? That we all like to feel good, and things that make us feel good exist in the millions? That a sex toy specifically for women/owners of a clitoris can stand proudly on a giant billboard heading into one of the biggest cities in Canada? If so, it’s about time!
Here’s one example of billboard-related negativity we’ve come across, and the following (amazing!) shut-down of said negativity: “Might as well start throwing up Pornhub or cannabis ads up there.”- some guy on blogTO. Commenters immediately chimed in with gems like: “Meh. Welcome to the future” and “… you are wrong. It's wonderful to see an ad around women’s pleasure, since so much advertising in the past has been focused around pleasing men. How is this ad more crude than, say, an ad for beer featuring women in bikinis. I wholeheartedly support this ad. If you don't, look away.” We love it! To anyone complaining about Scream Your Own Name, we wholeheartedly invite you to Mind Your Own Business.
That one snarky comment comparing a top-selling sex toy specifically designed to help women reach orgasm to watching porn and smoking pot (both legal, by the way) perfectly illustrates why we were half expecting the controversy that never came. Products (battery operated ones, in particular) designed to enhance sex for people without a penis haven't attracted much positive attention, at least not in mainstream media or, more to our point, on a billboard. WOWTech’s marketing director, speaking about some failed campaigns promoting sexual health and pleasure for women, said "When you are in the business of promoting women's sexual pleasure and all the benefits that go with that, you're used to being rejected. We approach every media buy with trepidation, as we never know if our investment is going to see the light of day." Why???
One theory lines up with something we’ve encountered (a lot) when researching and writing about topics like the clitoris, the g-spot and even the prostate gland: understanding the mechanics, means and possible variations of sexual pleasure just isn’t a societal priority. Think about it. Sexual pleasure, (dare I say, especially the sexual pleasure of vagina-owners) isn’t a political issue, the lack of it doesn’t amount to a pressing medical or scientific problem, and it doesn’t affect procreation or the fabric of society as we know it. So why spend the time, resources or effort to study it, promote it or shout its importance from the rooftop (or highway overpass)? Also, of course, there are decades, millennia even, of shameful ‘hush hush’ attitudes around masturbation, sex-for-pleasure and misinformation about sex and sexuality to break through. A giant billboard screaming about a clitoral stimulator is just one way to do that.
Our CEO Daniel Freedman said, “We’re just amazed at the positive response. Our billboard is getting noticed all over the world. We started PinkCherry because we wanted to create a sex positive and inclusive space for people to shop for sex toys. The success of the billboard and the great feedback we’ve received just goes to show how far the industry has come. We’re going to keep the pedal to the metal in 2019 and beyond!”
On that note, there’s been some speculation in the media - and by us, to be honest - as to why the Scream Your Own Name billboard has escaped the mighty hand (and billboard removal crane) of censorship.
Here’s another theory. The ad is super-subtle. The Womanizer is not immediately recognizable as a sex toy- something that’s actually a huge selling point! If you’ve never seen one before, it probably won’t register as a clitoral stimulator, especially when you’re speeding by at over 100km’s an hour. Also, while the billboard itself pictures a sex toy, the message behind the ad is not really for the toy- it’s more about the idea that you can and should take some responsibility for your own pleasure. Maybe we’ve got some allies on the billboard regulating - board? Or, like we said (and hope) above, maybe we’re all beginning to realize that the stigma around female pleasure and enjoyment of sex has gone on quite long enough, thanks.
We already know that most people with vaginas (75 % of them at least) need clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm. If that’s not a well-known fact, it should be. Maybe we’ll put it on the next billboard, who knows. Point is, the Womanizer was made specifically to stimulate the clitoris, and to bring its owner to orgasm. Yes, you can come all by yourself! It’s a great message, and one that we’re going to keep screaming about. PS: We’ve got that billboard space locked in for the rest of the year, so keep an eye out.
At PinkCherry, we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by sex positive people, groups, health care practitioners, sexual health pioneers and inclusivity pioneers. Not everyone is. THAT is why it’s so important to show people, all people, that sexual pleasure and wellness is an issue that should be talked about, looked at, maybe even discussed with your friends on the way to a concert on Bloor or a bar on College. If we’re a little shocked, or even weirded out by a giant sex toy billboard, maybe that’s okay. Maybe we just need to look at why we feel that way?
We’ll leave off with a quote from Shari Walczak, co-founder (and sex positive ally) of the ad agency we partnered with; because it’s one we 100% agree with. “We’re excited to be a part of helping move the industry forward giving people an accessible way to embrace the message of positive female sexuality.”