City Forces Good Vibrations Ads Off Buses

Kat Khan
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After various bus riders complained about the promotional ads sex toy store Good Vibrations had displayed on buses around Santa Clara, Valley Transportation Authority yanked the company's ads from its public transportation last week.

However, complaints about the promotions have not arisen in Alameda, Contra Costa or San Francisco counties, which are displaying even racier ads through Valentine’s Day.

"We certainly haven't gotten any complaints," Clarence Johnson, spokesman for the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, said. "I'm not sure if it's because we're more in the den of iniquity than [those] guys or what, but so far, nothing."

Good Vibrations Spokeswoman Karin Tobiason said the store “does not have an accurate pulse as to whether Santa Clara County is more or less conservative than other areas in general.” However, she added that after the complaints from VTA, the store has "opted to re-approach the community" in a different way.

The Good Vibrations ad campaign began during the holiday season in 2005, attempting to appeal to mainstream clientele for its erotic lotions, toys and other items. The store settled on a two-part campaign to promote its website and three Bay Area stores.

The first ad shows a conservatively dressed woman next to the slogan "Shop Good Vibrations, because good things come in our packages." VTA pulled the ad from its Santa Clara busses, deeming it too risqué for public viewing.

The second ad, which has been running in other counties without complaint, includes the slogan "Love Lab, the Science of Pleasure," accompanied by a picture of a vial of oil and a disassembled vibrator, the Hitachi Magic Wand Massager.

VTA Spokesman Kevin Kurimoto said the first ad ran inside 70 buses and on the backs of 57. He added that within a week, the complaints came rolling in, some from the drivers and some from the public.

"The ad itself was G-rated," Kurimoto said. “But we felt the company was directing people to its website and some of the products they sell would be considered pornographic.”

VTA ordered the ads off the buses; all were gone by the end of the year. The second set of ads, set to run on VTA buses through Valentine's Day, were not installed.

Kurimoto said that VTA is also upset with its ad contractor, Viacom. “[Viacom] is supposed to run any ads that may be controversial past us," Kurimoto said. "In this case, they did not."

Steve Shinn, spokesman for Viacom, now known as CBS Outdoor, said his company found nothing amiss in the ads, thus never thought to seek approval from VTA.

"We felt they were not obscene or against community standards," Shinn said.