The night of Aug. 13, Lamar Advertising, a national advertising firm headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pulled a provocative billboard in Boise less than 24 hours after it was installed, characterizing its installation as a mistake.
“We’re concerned that the message at the bottom of the ad could be perceived as a threat,” said Lamar’s Vice President of Governmental Relations Hal Kilshaw, “and the burning police car is inappropriate.”
In a press release, the company wrote that the display of the advertisement was a mistake, and removed it the night of Aug. 13. Lamar representatives said that due to employee oversight, proper procedures weren’t followed and once management was aware of the billboard's contents, the company pulled it. Kilshaw also wrote in an email that the company had received dozens of complaints about it.
“Lamar does not endorse the content of the ad," the press release stated, “and we apologize for our error in displaying it. We are currently reminding our managers across the country about our copy acceptance procedures to ensure that any and all sensitive copy is reviewed and vetted properly in accordance with Lamar’s policy.”
This isn’t the first time the company has removed an advertisement amid controversy. According to CBS news, the company has exercised its prerogative in regards to both liberal and conservative billboards. However, in 2009, Lamar refused to sell ad space to an atheist that tried to put up an ad that said, “imagine no religion.” The reason for the refusal to sell ad space was that the General Manager of Lamar Advertising in Birmingham said, “It was offensive to me.”
Lamar’s copy acceptance policy states that “it supports the First Amendment right of advertisers to promote legal products and services. We also advocate the use of our medium for political, editorial, public service and other noncommercial messages.”
However, the company’s acceptance policy also states that “Application of this policy for several years has made it clear there are issues that require special scrutiny before copy may be accepted. All submissions which contain negative references concerning religion, human rights, nationality (such as Israeli-Palestinian or Turkish-Armenian), abortion or similar subjects must be submitted to the Vice-President of Governmental Relations for consideration before any decision on acceptance or rejection may be made.”
Although Lamar decided to take the Boise billboard down, Kilshaw said that the company would be open to selling space to the person who previously bought the billboard after review to make sure it doesn’t conflict with the policy.