Community protests offensive billboard in Hunts Point, has ad taken down

Community protests offensive billboard in Hunts Point, has ad taken down
This Wodka vodka billboard, over the Bruckner Boulevard expressway, was taken down by the company after community board 2 members protest it .
Photo by Kirsten Sanchez

The Hunt’s Point community has stepped up its efforts to protect its image, and they have won.

Following condemning remarks made by community leaders for Community Board 2, a Wodka Vodka billboard, which read “Escort Quality, Hooker Pricing” was removed from an area on Bruckner Boulevard leading into Hunts Point, an area which has struggled with a reputation for prostitution.

The sign was removed Wednesday, February 22, after community board district manager Rafael Salamanca Jr., made contact with the company to explain the community’s shock and dismay over the billboard’s message.

“It’s a very offensive billboard,” Salmanca said. “Hunt’s Point has been plagued with prostitution for decades and the Community Board, along with other community organizations have been working very hard to change the perception which we have done very effectively. We are bringing in new businesses and trying to change the area. It is unfortunate that a marketing company comes in and strategically places this message in this area.”

Salmanca said the first thing the community board did was to contact the vodka company to discuss the issue with them, but that he was only partially pleased with the company’s response.

“We got a hold of the vodka company, and the marketing manager, and explained to them why we felt this advertisement was not appropriate in this area,” Salmanca said. “They did not apologize for the billboard, but apologized for their insensitivity to the area in which they placed the billboard.”

The Wodka vodka brand is known for advertising that is intended to draw attention by using controversial issues or stereotypes.

In November of 2011, the company caused controversy over an ad they ran over the West Side highway near 130th Street.

The advertisement read “Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing” and featured two dogs, one wearing a Santa hat and the other a yarmulke.

That advertisement was also pulled after members in the community and officials said the ad was anti-Semetic, crude and offensive.

Brian Gordon, a managing partner for MMG, the company that creates the ad campaigns, said it is not the company’s intention to offend people.

“We are not in tune with specific community issues,” Gordon said. “We didn’t buy that billboard in that area specifically to place that specific ad there. We didn’t target that area. It was brought to our attention late Tuesday afternoon by the district manager from Community Board 2.”

Gordon said he as well as the company understands the community’s concerns, and that they did not realize they had that kind of image problem in that area.

“We are not commenting on prostitution, we were using the statement to make a point about quality in relation to pricing,” he said. “We understand they have worked very hard to get the community issues resolved and we don’t want to be a hindrance to that progress at all, so we had the billboard taken down.”

Gordon said the advertisement company wanted to help the community out, which is why they agreed to take the sign down.

“We applaud them for what they are doing in their community.”

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