Monday, July 01, 2013


A local but anonymous group, Sexism Matters, has launched an online petition asking the Equinox fitness chain to remove an "offensive and sexist billboard" from its Bethesda Row building facade.

In the group's petition, which currently has 172 signatures, they tell Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak "our daughters and sons walk by the billboard outside Equinox Gym every day. They see a woman in a degrading sexual position, being 'celebrated' for her hypersexualized and supposed dexterity, with a pool cue and balls. This is somehow meant to advertise for a fitness facility. Our children shouldn't be subjected to this. Our female friends and family shouldn't be viewed like this, nor forced to conform to it."

Some context here: The facade advertisement features one of several images in Equinox's 2013 "Dexterity" marketing campaign. The photographs were taken by a renowned but highly-controversial photographer, Terry Richardson. Richardson is best known for his photos of top celebrities like Beyonce and Lady GaGa. He collaborated on a photo book with the latter, no stranger to controversy herself.

The resulting campaign has been recognized and praised on both sides of the Atlantic. Hiring Richardson was a deliberate choice by Equinox. They knew his work would be provocative, and certainly, the campaign was meant to provoke a response.

It has.

This local petition is only one example of complaints by offended parties across the internet.

But the campaign has succeeded: it's being talked about. They've got your attention. And that's the whole point. Aside from actual criminal activity, there's usually no such thing as bad press.

There is the First Amendment right, too, of the company to communicate anything it wants. So, too, are the petitioners exercising that right themselves. And the great thing about America, is people get to decide for themselves. Does the ad convince you to buy an Equinox membership? Or are you offended, and will go elsewhere?

Equinox does not currently seem to be hurting for members. But they have always had an edgy marketing campaign. That edginess - along with the high-quality, upscale product they provide - has distinguished them from competing gyms. And arguably, has played a role in its success.

The models are thin, and the fashions are expensive. And so they are in Federal Realty's marketing materials, as well. Bethesda Row is an "aspirational" place. It's not surprising that companies targeting an aspirational audience would give them what they believe those demographics aspire to.

Clearly, Sexism Matters feels some of the "values" in the Equinox campaign are not ones to aspire to. Others probably wonder what the fuss is all about.

You've got to give the ad agency credit - much like The Lauren's in-your-face condo ads on Hampden Lane - people are talking about it. (And, unlike The Lauren ads, some have said positive things about the Equinox campaign). In the ad world, that's what you live for.

What do you think about the ad?


Anonymous said...

This is a joke. You have every right to boycott their business and not patronize their gym. To demand that they take down a billboard that breaks no laws is disgusting. Haven't you head of freedom of speech? Lets try not to insulate our sons and daughters from the real world an instead educate them about wrong and right. Focusing our attention on a non issue billboard instead of real issues is a crime. Privileged mothers of Bethesda, surely you can find a better use of your time.

Anonymous said...

Since when is a woman on her knees in a "degrading" sexual position. We aren't all uptight, only-in-the-dark missionaries.

Anonymous said...

i think it looks great good stuff to look at when stuck in traffic

Anonymous said...

I see nothing wrong with it.
Advertising only works if it gets your attention.
Parents need to be worried about more important things than billboards.

Anonymous said...

Beats the hell out of looking at a man in a skintight minidress. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Love the ad. Hope they stick with the campaign. They're not selling moo moos to Mama Cass

Anonymous said...

it is ALWAYS ugly woman and men, who most often are also religious mind controlled freaks who push for this.

Uncle Elmer said...

I demand that it be removed as featuring a stupid chick crawling on a billiard table is offensive to men.

Is nothing sacred?

Scott said...

Nuke it from orbit.

The only way to ensure the continued existence of Western society.