Local News

Titillating Billboards Create Cleavage of Opinion

Posted January 28, 2008 5:20 p.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2008 1:57 p.m. EST

— Some people, including a Fayetteville City Council member, question of legality of some billboards in town that advertise plastic surgery.

The signs for Cape Fear Plastic Surgery depict a close-up of a woman's cleavage and a thin woman in a string bikini.

The Rev. Brian Woodall, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, said members of his congregation are appalled that one of the billboards – a digital sign measuring 36 feet wide by 10 feet high – is posted right outside their church on Raeford Road.

"Some have said, 'Pastor, have you seen that sign?' I said, 'Yeah, unfortunately,'" Woodall said. "It's certainly not in good taste."

The owner of Cape Fear Plastic Surgery couldn't be reached Monday for comment.

Hal Kilshaw, a spokesman for Lamar Advertising, which owns the billboards, said the images comply with the company's standards. The pictures are "on television, in magazines and all sorts of media" and clearly meet community standards, he said.

But Councilman D.J. Haire said the ads are too revealing and are inappropriate to appear on such large signs.

"I wonder how women feel about that. That was one of the first things that I thought," Haire said, adding that he also thought about his children. "(I wonder) what kind of questions they would ask me, like they used to when they were with us riding around town."

After some of his constituents complained, Haire said, he asked the city's legal department about regulating suggestive billboards. City Attorney Karen McDonald told him the pictures aren't considered obscene under state law, however, and any restrictions on ad content could infringe on free speech.

"What about the freedom of speech of those who feel that their First Amendment rights are being crushed? What about those who say this is wrong?" Haire asked.

Douglas Displays, the Charlotte agency that designed the billboards, said in a statement Monday that the ads are "tastefully and professionally done" and are appropriate for a plastic surgery practice.

"These ads are intended to promote Cape Fear Plastic Surgery and visually highlight the results of plastic surgery," the statement said. "We do not deem a bikini-clad model used on a billboard to be any different from a bikini-clad model in a newspaper sales insert or a television commercial."

Woodall said he doesn't think the billboards belong in Fayetteville.

"I'm not against advertising in any way, but there are more appropriate ways to advertise than putting that kind of thing on the screen," he said. “Even if our church wasn’t here and I was driving along and had my child in the back, I wouldn’t want to see that.”