MTV’s Ad Is Banned in Boston

MTV’s first campaign from Modernista! stirred controversy during its initial week in circulation. Showing teens French kissing, the execution was banished from greater Bos ton’s transit system.

At press time, the Massachusetts Bay Trans portation Authority intended to “immediately” pull the posters from rail stations and other locations, according to Lydia Rivera, an MBTA representative.

The ad shows an extreme close-up of a teen couple with the headline: “Can I get MTV from kissing?” The tag for the overall campaign is, “We’re watching.” Outdoor, transit and print ads began breaking nationwide last week. Modernista!, Boston, crafted the effort, its first since being hired by MTV a year ago. The client spent more than $30 million on ads last year.

Sources have said the campaign—which likens the music network to a sexually transmitted disease and mimics the style of urban transit posters warning young people of such infections—was designed to generate bans and capture media attention.

“The ads were not meant to stir up controversy,” said Christina Norman, svp of marketing and on-air promotions at MTV. “Obviously, I’m sorry they chose not to run that ad.”

According to Rivera, the “kissing” ad “fell through the cracks” of the initial screening process. The decision to pull it came after further review by MBTA officials, though no complaints had been lodged. None of the half-dozen other MTV executions were deemed objectionable.

The MBTA is notorious for banning questionable ads. Last month, it rejected a $40,000 contract to run promotions for the movie Tomcats. MBTA officials labeled those ads, showing a woman in boxers and headlined “The last man standing gets the kitty,” as too suggestive.

MTV’s effort, which also includes an owl icon with laser-beam rays of light shining from its eyes, will extend to TV later this spring.

“[Modernista] came up with [the owl] idea,” Norman said. “They were looking for a twist and a wink that draws attention.”