Is This Billboard Offensive?


Spicer Greene Jewelers in Asheville, NC had a clever marketing idea. Thinking "rocks" and equating it to the valuable gemstones they sell, the store bought a billboard saying "Sometimes, it's ok to throw rocks at girls..." and surrounded them by gemstones.

And the internet lost it!

The Facebook post (above) from a guy named Ridley Garrod says it all. 

One of the stores owners said the message was simply meant as a "fun play on words." And in fact, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports that the idea came from the 87-year-old grandmother and 60-year-old aunt of the store's co-owner. But realizing they'd caused offense, the store decided to apologize. (Which sadly, offends another entirely different group).


My opinion: I thought it was clever.  

I understand that violence and particularly violence against women is a problem, never to be condoned. But this billboard puts "throwing rocks" in the context of giving her expensive gemstones. Toss in the "Sometimes, it's ok..." reference with a graphic of gemstones and you're telling people that it's "ok" only in that context -- i.e., give her expensive "rocks."

That said, I understand the problem with billboards and this campaign. You've got eight words to tell your story and the board had eleven words (plus graphics). It's too much to say when someone is speeding by on a busy interstate. So getting the context wrong is very easy, and I'm sure lots of people did a double take without realizing what they'd just seen. And for a lot of people, especially those who've experienced violence, the negatives outweigh any perceived cleverness. 

The owners of this jewelry store seem like nice people, and clearly no malice was intended. They even donate to campaigns that fight violence against women. But if enough people are upset, in business that's an indication that you got it wrong -- even if most people "get it" or don't have a problem. So as a matter of good business, the owners of Spicer Greene Jewelers have apologized for their (too clever) marketing campaign.



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