Billboards have a way of sparking controversy from time to time. Sometimes, they aim to educate the public on a sensitive topic, while other times, their objective is to catch drivers’ attention with a captivating message. However, a recent Harley-Davidson billboard has generated quite a stir across the country due to its “offensive” language that rubbed many people the wrong way.
The advertisement was simple yet bold. It encouraged people to hop on a Harley and embrace a more courageous life. The tagline read:
“Leave all the bulls**t in the wind behind you.”
The billboard was created by the Bayside Harley-Davidson dealer in Portsmouth and aimed to attract riders who longed for the freedom of the open road. Shawn Robinson, the general manager of the dealership, loved the tagline and hoped that people wouldn’t be so sensitive to the use of a curse word in the ad.
“When you get on a bike, you leave everything behind. The daily struggles, the pressures from work, family, and life. It all fades away, so the message resonates,” Robinson explained.
However, Robinson was taken aback when members of the local community expressed their offense towards the billboard. Located along I-264 East, the sign triggered numerous complaints from individuals who called the dealership and posted scathing remarks on social media.
Surprisingly, the billboard had been approved by both the billboard company and Harley-Davidson. Robinson couldn’t understand why the word was deemed offensive by some. He believed that the ad’s true meaning was being overshadowed by a single curse word.
Nevertheless, many men in the area were furious that Harley-Davidson was creating ads they considered a bad influence on their children. Concerned parents like Brian Robbins expressed their alarm, fearing that this kind of advertising would erode innocence and respect.
However, not everyone shared the same sentiment. Mark Bethel argued that although freedom of speech must be acknowledged, ultimate authority lay in the hands of the billboard companies.
Bill Moody, a Portsmouth City Councilman, confirmed that the billboard was within its rights since it was located on Bayside’s property.
Robinson clarified, “We certainly didn’t mean to offend anybody when we put it up; that certainly wasn’t our intent, but it did. Hopefully, as with all advertising, we can garner some attention from it.”
Despite the controversy, Robinson emphasized that the focus should shift to addressing the other pressing concerns in the Portsmouth community.
“The city of Portsmouth has its economic challenges, and we shouldn’t be overly concerned about a word on a street sign. We have bigger things to tackle, like approving the downtown casino,” Robinson commented.
Opinions about the billboard remain divided. Those who believe it was targeted towards bikers argue that it wasn’t inappropriate. On the other hand, parents of young children make a valid point, considering its prominent placement along a public highway.
Now the question lingers: Should the controversial billboard remain or be taken down? What are your thoughts?