The ad banned from the Boston Transit System by The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in early April 2001.[Gi] The ad features a male and female french kissing with the words superimposed in large letters. Transit spokeswoman Lydia Revera gave no reason for the action, merely stating that the ad "fell through the cracks" of the screening process and was pulled after a review by transit officials. She said no passengers complained.[Gi]

The ad is part of the first MTV ad campaign by Modernista!, who won the account last year. Sources cited by writer David Gianatasio claim the campaign was "designed to be banned ... and capture media attention." However, MTV spokeswoman Christina Norman said "the ads were not meant to stir up controversy," and expressed regret that the MBTA decided to pull the ads.

The campaign was launched on 2 April 2001 and has since sprung up in other major cities such as New York and Chicago. The television campaign will begin by the end of spring.[Gi]

I've been seeing some of the ads in various places. I was in a cafe in the East Village last week and there were a bunch of MTV postcards in the M@xRacks. Other titles include:[Mo]

  • Talk to your partner about MTV
  • I'm itchy, do I have MTV?
  • The best defense against MTV is abstinence
  • 3 out of 4 people have MTV and don't even know it
  • When you have MTV, you feel like everyone else knows

    It is obviously playing on STD awareness campaigns, and the sheer attention they have garnered in the early 1990's make it ripe for plucking, nearly a decade later. AIDS ribbons are nearly campy now, with a plethora of awareness ribbons for every cause imaginable in tow. But is this ad campaign camp, kitsch, or something else entirely?

    STD awareness is certainly not as trendy as it was, but is it sufficiently passé as to be camp? While ribbons have faded away, the campaigns still exist, and the message is still being pushed. Awareness campaigns are immune to camp as long as they are relevant. This poses a problem for campaigns where the problem may be perceived as irrelevant, but STD awareness has proven to be a persistent force thus far.

    While it could be construed that making fun of sexually transmitted diseases is inherently kitsch, it's not the STDs that are being made fun of here. It's making fun of the hype surrounding awareness campaigns, and thus we come full circle. The ad campaign is promoting MTV by making fun of media saturation. It is an anti-commercial commercial. Yes, this tired construct from the end of the last century is back again, and will last far longer than the amusement anyone may get out of it.

    Sources:
    Gianatasio, David. "MTV Ad Banned in Boston Transit." Mediaweek.com, April 5, 2001.
    Modernista!. Portfolio, Recent Work. http://www.modernista.com April 21, 2001

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