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.

GetOffRichmond-Front

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 www.ie-rva.org for details.

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Nathan Cushing

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

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