There’s been a bit of an uproar here in New York City over an ad appearing on city buses by the urban clothing company Akademiks. The ads feature the slogan “Read Books, Get Brain.” The problem, it turns out, is that “brain” is slang for oral sex with the kids these days and this wasn’t an innocent oversight on the part of Akademics.
According to the story in the New York Daily News: “We knew this,” fessed up Anthony Harrison, Akademiks’ ad designer. “It’s coded language, city slang. Teens know what it means but the general public doesn’t.”
It’s hard to take sides in this one. Akademiks was clearly trying to get away with something it knew it normally wouldn’t be able to get away with. New York City’s transit folks, meanwhile, apparently weren’t using Brain #1 and approved the ads even though the visuals that go with the slogan in one instance feature a woman wearing only a short sweater and her underwear, on her knees, lasciviously looking at the viewer. She’s holding a book, but she’s not reading it.
What’s the responsibility of the advertiser here? Is there any way to be clever and sexy and not be dishonest?