Controversial “Get Off!” signs taken down after only 48 hours

A marketing initiative that hoped to lure travelers to RVA has caused a minor controversy over the cheeky nature of the message.


After less than 48 hours, two billboards prompting highway travelers to visit Richmond were taken down this morning due to controversy over their use of sexual innuendo. The signs, which read “Get Off! in Richmond”, were viewed by some as too risqué.

“The ‘Get Off! in Richmond’ billboard was intended to be a fun conversation starter…,” said Lesley Bruno, director of marketing for the Greater Richmond Chamber in a statement. “It was not intended to offend, polarize, or in any way distract residents from the work that needs to be done to keep making this Region the best that it can be.”

Two signs were installed on digital billboards at about 4:00 PM Wednesday, one on I-95 near Diversity Thrift and the other on I-64 near Staples Mill Road. The billboard space was donated to the Greater Richmond Chamber as was the artwork.

The artwork dates back to March 14th, the first event in the recent “RIC/RVA – 400 years of Revolution, Innovation, and Change in #RVA” series. Organized by i.e.*, the free event aimed to “develop visual propaganda celebrating moments of transformation and change” in Richmond.

Attendees were grouped together with nine local creative advertisers and asked to come up with signage concepts for local tourism. Stephanie O’Dell of local JHI (a group that helped conceive the popular RVA sticker and the 2010 “Give Richmond the Byrd” campaign) was one of the attendees.

“My group came up with the cheeky “Get Off! in Richmond” headline to encourage travelers on 95 or 64 to get off the highway and experience all the amazing attractions Richmond has to offer,” wrote O’Dell on the JHI website on June 13th. According to Bruno, most people liked the poster.

“We received more compliments than we got detractors,” said Bruno. She said some had thought the Chamber oblivious to the innuendo. “It’s supposed to be kitschy.” Those displeased with the implied sexual inference insisted they come down.

A comment on JHI’s website from July 11th reads:

The posters are cute and I am sure they will appeal to 20 or 30 somethings, but I feel they are not representative of Richmond and what Richmond has to offer. Richmond is classier than that.

Even though most approved of the signs, Bruno said: “we didn’t want this to be the one thing that people remember” from the i.e.* series. Despite the minor fallout over the poster, Bruno said the Chamber did not regret the initiative, and that controversy is not uncommon with artistic expression. She said the Chamber will move forward in trying to promote the many benefits of the city. “It’s not been a bad experience,” said Bruno. “It’s been a learning experience.”

The poster, and two others, can be purchased through the Chamber for $15. Proceeds will benefit the Valentine Richmond History Center, the Library of Virignia, and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredgar. Please visit for details.

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

20 comments on Controversial “Get Off!” signs taken down after only 48 hours

  1. Roger Talbott on said:

    hypersensitive dorks can’t handle even the tamest innuendo.

  2. Joe on said:

    I’m having a really hard time trying to decide if I love it or hate it. It definitely made me laugh though. It’s kind of amazing that they went for it.

  3. Eye-catching with a bit of whimsey and maybe a hint of sassiness…criticisms are from the Richmond, VA crowd, not the RVA crowd. I

  4. Woah woah woah, Cindy … there’s a “Richmond crowd” and an “RVA crowd”? So the “RVA” campaign isn’t about inclusivity? It’s only for the cool kids?

  5. Sarah on said:

    Oh Jason… RVA **is** the inclusive crowd. It’s the “Richmond, VA” crowd that isn’t. RVA wants EVERYONE to ‘get off’… Richmond, not so much.

  6. Scott on said:

    Hey, the tried something. Not great really. A bit childish. But what the heck? At least they’re trying to promote the city. But the RVA work is much stronger. So the real question is why start yet another campaign when we have one that’s pretty cool.

  7. Oh Richmond… 48 hours of fun is all you can handle. Don’t talk about how you want innovation and creativity and startups if a little sign like this is too much to handle. I am impressed that it at least made it up on the billboard– one small step for RVA.

  8. Scott on said:

    To me, at least part of the purpose of this campaign seemed like it was about promoting more billboards, which I dislike. So I am not sad to see it fail.

  9. Sarah, you just confused me more. I guess people are pitting “old” and “new” Richmond against each other? And now different sides have spokesmen? I gotta get up to speed on this.

  10. Liberty666 on said:

    They should lease the concept to Amsterdam

  11. John Maloney on said:

    I love the billboards. What else should a sign do but grab your attention? Let’s print bumper stickers and push the funny slogan that way. It’s Virginia is for Lovers for 2012. Show me a billboard that works without some edginess or attitude. Are we Scranton or are we Austin?

  12. poorbrokestudent on said:

    geez Richmond, get a sense of humor already!!!

  13. R Day on said:

    I like them, and the edginess would work to get folks to exit 95. It’s the economy stupid. But as bumper stickers it would be more perverted then the bill boards. Everyone driving in Richmond would be “gettin’ off” (I hope so), when the point was to draw in more visitors. I used to live in Austin, and Austin we are not. But we have a lot of great attributes without the Austin traffic. Let’s promote Richmond for what it is. How about “Hard to change, easy to love”. Hey, Richmond is like a baby with a poopy diaper.

  14. r in rva on said:

    I like this. @Scott: Why a new campaign? Because we ignore the familiar. Fresh imagery gets your attention! Also, kudos to the art director, designer, and/or illustrator; the design is simple, effective, and beautiful!

  15. Jason, oh dear Jason, RVA is for everyone, but- there are some who don’t like the “RVA” moniker, maybe it’s too “cutting edge” for them? I dunno, so that’s the reference the old timers, the ultra old Richmond or whoever they are who like things to stay “just the way they are”! RVA is for EVERYBODY, some just don’t want it.

  16. Jack on said:

    My idea for ‘Take this exit and have an orgasm in RVA!’ was shot down real quick.

    This city is so prude.

  17. Kari on said:

    I loved the idea for this campaign. The RVA campaign is definitely working nd should be kept up – but what’s so wrong with another avenue to draw people to the River City? I found the graphics to be beautiful, colorful, not too serious….and the message to be simple yet effective. Clearly communicating to people to get off the highway and check out our city…once they’re off the highway they’re free to interpret it however they wish ;) It’s a shame they were taken down. I’ll be buying a print copy for my loft :)

  18. Speaking as one who is sick of double entendre’s, I like it. Most sexual inuendos so prevalent on TV sitcome are intended to put your mind in the gutter. This one is just the opposite. It catches you attention, then encourages you to pull off the freeway and into the city. It’s a fine line, but I think they knew just where to draw it. I’m offended by a lot of stuff. This isn’t one of them.

  19. Kate on said:

    I love this. Fits in great with the whole “VA is for lovers” thing, shows we have a sense of humor, and is likely to be remembered. BRING BACK THE BILLBOARD!

  20. JoeyG on said:

    I am so sick of the squares determining whats acceptable and what is not. Get off in RVA and tell a square to suck it..

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