Reporting an Offensive Billboard

Citizens for Community Values provides the following suggestion in The Power of One (PDF):

…Clear Channel and Media One, which own 50% of all the billboards in America, have adopted a policy not to accept advertising from sexually oriented businesses. Many other billboard companies also take pride in
such a policy. Citizens have been successful in having offensive material removed from the highways with just a few phone calls. If you find a billboard that is offensive or is advertising a sexually oriented business follow the suggestions below:


1. Contact the company that owns the billboard, not the advertiser, and make a respectful appeal to remove it. You can obtain the name of the company by locating the small sign on the bottom of the billboard. You will then find the [company’s] name and address in the local phonebook.

2. If the owner refuses to remove it, take two photos of the offensive billboard.

3. Send one of the photos with name, address and phone number of the billboard owner and the exact address location of the billboard, including city and state, to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America for determination whether the billboard owner is violating the OAAA code of ethical conduct. If there is an ethical violation, the OAAA will contact the association member directly. You can contact them at: Outdoor Advertising Association of America, 1850 M Street N.W., Suite
1040, Washington, DC 20036,

These excerpts from The OAAA Code of Industry Principles are relevant:

We support the right of outdoor advertising companies to reject advertising that is misleading, offensive, or otherwise incompatible with individual community standards, and in particular, we reject the posting of obscene words or pictorial content.

We are careful to place outdoor advertisements for products illegal for sale to minors on advertising displays that are a reasonable distance from the public places where children most frequently congregate.

We are committed to a program that establishes exclusionary zones that prohibit stationary advertisements of products illegal for sale to minors that are intended to be read from, or within 500 feet of, elementary and secondary schools, public playgrounds, and established places of worship.

We support billboard advertising as a business use to be erected only in commercial and industrial areas.

We seek to exclude new billboards on truly scenic segments of highways outside of commercial and industrial areas.

——————————— (added on 5/6/07)

NO V.I.P. in Berlin, CT relays a successful case of a citizen getting a billboard company to decline adult advertising on a billboard across the street from a church:

I mentioned [the OAAA Code of Industry Principles] to Stan, a neighbor and active member of our neighborhood group. Stan began contacting the company, which is located in New Jersey. He eventually got through to the owner, and explained the local situation, and told him the boards were clearly within 500′ of a church, which they company seemed unaware of.

With some persistence and cajoling on Stan’s part, the owner of the
billboards agreed that the boards were possibly in violation of the
OAAA principles. These are not [legally] binding, necessarily, but the
company was willing to work on resolving the situation. The Penthouse
Boutique ad has been moved to another location owned by the billboard
company. The VIP board is under contract for a few more months. Now
that the billboard company is aware of the violation, though, they will
advise that the location is no longer available for adult business

If you find advertising to be offensive or in violation of standards…
find out who is in control of it and TELL them. All billboards have the
name of the company that owns them and usually a phone number along the
bottom of the frame. There is also an ID# for that board, if possible
give the company the exact location by providing this number.

7 thoughts on “Reporting an Offensive Billboard

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