Oh, the digital horror of it all. A triple entendre in a free piece of clever artwork on free, rotating billboard space added up to immediate removal after some complaints.
Representing both the best and worst of Richmond, mid-July's minor incident with a Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce-sponsored digital billboard is indicative of what keeps Richmond from going over the precipice into greatness.
We're close, but, like the loser in a photo-finish snapshot, we've come up short in the end more than a few times. Let me add to the list:
- Richmond approves the state's first charter elementary school but then seemingly hamstrings it at every turn.
- Richmond hires a progressive leader for its GRTC system, but after he got nowhere championing Main Street Station as a transportation hub and urging regional leaders to determine where mass transit fell in their list of regional priorities, we lost him to Orlando.
- Back in 2000, the Richmond Braves were saying that the Diamond needed an overhaul. Some regional players wanted to renovate, others wanted to build elsewhere, so we lost the team in 2008. The AA Squirrels are great, but Nutzy could fly if The Diamond is ignored again.
- Richmond hires a progressive leader for its planning department.
- She is outspoken about the riverfront, giving the public access to the river and maintaining its historic views. She is demoted and then leaves for a consulting job in Abu Dhabi.
Now back to that billboard dust-up.
With artwork and a slogan — "Get Off in Richmond" — by a staffer at local ad firm J H I, this was originally a poster, one of the top three in a competition held through the i.e.* initiative, an innovation- and entrepreneur-focused website community and series of events. "The billboard was not part of the initial plan but a ‘Hey, this might be an innovative and different way of enlivening the I-95 corridor,' which is one of our priorities right now," says Lesley Bruno, the GRCC's marketing director. Less than 48 hours after the billboard appeared, the GRCC had it taken down. "We actually received a lot of positive feedback," Bruno says, "but the negative feedback threatened to overshadow all of the goodwill we've worked hard to establish for i.e. *."
No one is ever in 100 percent agreement on any ad campaign or slogan, at least the good ones. As a quote hanging in The Martin Agency says, "If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."
Not leaving the board up didn't let Richmond get down with its bad self, and that's a shame