When Billboards Get Really Ugly

The billboard wars are raging out West. In L.A., ads for KRCA’s Spanish-language TV news were ripped by illegal-immigration opponents. They showed two newscasters and the words Los Angeles, CA—with the CA crossed out and replaced by Mexico. The station said it wanted to point out how close it is to its Latino audience, but when governor (and legal immigrant) Arnold Schwartzenegger blasted the ads, they were done for. They came down last week.

Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City, ads bearing the image shown here have also come down. Instead of UglyKids.info, many people have been racing home and typing in “UglyKids.com,” which leads to a Web site that links to “thongs,” “penis,” “Jewish singles” “Texas holdem” and “Kissimmee vacation home.” “We’re not trying to be moralistic,” says Reagan Outdoor principal Dewey Reagan, who dumped the campaign. “We take very seriously the idea of censoring and restricting ads. But to remain in business—in a family-centric place where the issue of billboards itself is very sensitive—we have to take action when the community doesn’t like something. It wasn’t just the Web address but the image itself, which some people complained was mean-spirited.”

The ads are evidently teasers for radio shows, and would have gone on to read, “Ugly kids grow up to be DJs.”