The TTC has been linked to Ashley Madison, a website whose official slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Specifically, Ashley Madison is crying foul over the TTC’s rejection of a contract that would have wrapped several streetcars in Ashley Madison advertising. Even more specifically, the streetcars would have the company’s slogan plastered along either side. It’s a deal that would put at least $250,000 in the TTC’s pockets, which are presently empty and hanging inside-out with moths flying about. Talk radio (the social barometer by which all issues are measured… what are you going to do about it, social media?) was all a-twitter this morning (see what I did there?) over the issue, with Torontonians evenly divided on whether it’s a good idea. Here are some arguments floating around:
- Having Ashley Madison advertise on the TTC will encourage deviant behaviour and drive people to cheat on their significant others – First off, if someone in a relationship is debating cheating, that relationship is already in trouble. Second, if someone in a relationship decides to go ahead and cheat, they will do so regardless of what they see on the side of a bus. Life isn’t a movie where epiphanies are had standing on snowy street corners staring at signs on streetcars.There seems to be little uproar over the EYE or NOW magazines available free at most TTC stations, which openly advertise sexual services from prostitutes and escorts, and feature NSA (no-strings attached) ads from ordinary people looking for casual sex. In fact, there is likely a greater probability that you’re safer meeting someone from Ashley Madison for casual yet intimate encounters, rather than from the back pages of a free newspaper.
- How will parents explain to children viewing the ad the notion of having an affair? – Good parents will think of something. If not, maybe we should look at banning the word “sex” from advertising, though that would probably cut out 50% of all ads. Maybe we should also make sure women in ads all wear ankle-length skirts and cover their shoulders, in case children ask about breasts or shapely legs. Oh, we should also ban ads where it looks like people are driving fast, in case it leads to speed racing. We should also ban the movie Speed Racer. Speaking of movies, don’t they have words in their titles like kill and death and violence and war? Let’s look at banning those as well. I’m pretty sure I once saw an ad that asked people not to smoke, and that may have a reverse-psychology effect on children, so that’s banned as well.The annoying point I’m making here is that you cannot shield your children from everything, and more importantly, your children aren’t as interested in these things as parents believe. They don’t possess the breadth of experience and knowledge to properly process the meaning of and beliefs behind, say, an affair. They learn the surface meaning and move on.
- If Ashley Madison can advertise, why not cigarette companies? Alcohol? Gaming? – What if Marlboro put up a website, and asked people to join and create profiles. They could interact online with other people interested in Marlboros, and maybe even meet up in person. And when they met in person, they would each bring some cigarettes and smoke up a storm together. It’s a lousy – and copyrighted – idea, but bear with me. Marlboro wouldn’t be pushing cigarettes in that case. Sure, they may be encouraging their use, but they would really just be acting as a facilitator between two parties with mutual interests. If they hadn’t met through Marlboro’s website, they might have met nine feet outside the front doors to their office.If someone is going to cheat, they will cheat. Seeing an ad won’t compel anyone who hasn’t already made that decision. What’s more, Ashley Madison only acts as a third party. If not them, then EYE or NOW or Craigslist or Kijiji or any other number of sources.
By now you should see where I stand on the issue. The TTC is in need of money and Ashley Madison is more than happy to fork some over. But ethics and morals prevent the TTC from accepting. Has it forgotten the fact that in 2007, it was happy to take on the controversy of posting ads promoting atheism and the lack of God? Two years can be a long time when you’re raising fares and failing to meet the evolving infrastructure of the city which you serve.
Even if the TTC ultimately does reject having Ashley Madison’s ads plastered on what probably amounts to less than 1% of their streetcar fleet (for $250,000, did I mention that?), this should open a discussion for more advertising on the TTC to subsidize some of its costs.
Anyone who’s been on the Metro in Paris, the Underground in London, the New York subway, the Hong Kong subway and many other transit systems can attest to a plethora of ads. In New York and Paris, there is an ad every few feet. They are inescapable but not intolerable; rather they are a part of the urban underground landscape. Blending into the walls of the transit system as passers-by scurry by, they also give companies a chance to be edgy, creative and try to grab people’s attention. Volkswagen is a perfect example.
Finally, in a brilliant PR move, Ashley Madison also announced reduced fares on TTC vehicles bearing their ad, should their contract be approved. I don’t know if that’s realistic, but they’ve managed to hit a note that resonates with every citizen of Toronto, regardless of their stance on the morality of the issue: Your wallets are suffering, and we want to help. In effect, they’ve told Toronto that they will subsidize the TTC and they will subsidize TTC riders, but the TTC won’t let them. Touché, Ashley Madison.
Bottom line: The TTC needs financial help. If they don’t accept it from Ashley Madison, let this issue lead to an improved resolution on advertising on the TTC in order to offset operating costs. Higher ad revenues mean lower fares and a better system. Toronto deserves that much.
What do you think? Would you allow this? Details, please…