Billboards don’t grope people, people do.

For those who are in advertising, and also in New York, you may have heard about the recent scandal involving the jewel in the crown of Times Square, Revlon’s Love Is On digital billboard.

Firstly I should say that I visit Times Square frequently, and have never once seen this majestic ClearChannel screen without a crowd of exhilarated visitors, peering gleefully up at themselves as they enjoy their moment of Big Apple fame. It joined the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge in the ranks of top New York tourist attractions – with folks including it in their must-see itinerary.

So it sucked big time when I heard that, in its twilight, it had been suspended. More shocking was the reason that New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton gave us all: that people were getting inappropriately touched while their attention was diverted.

Ok, now just a minute. Somebody has to say it: how can Love Is On get accused for inciting rape with a large digital screen that does little else but show a video feed of the people standing below? Inciting surprise and delight, maybe, but that it is the cause for opportunistic perverts to get their grope on is utterly ridiculous.

This argument is similar to the one our friends in the NRA have been bringing to the table for decades. Why ban guns when it is, actually, the trigger-happy psychos who are to blame for America’s high rate of violent gun crime?

The difference here of course is that unless the billboard actually proclaims the message: “Grope is On. Step right up. Get your gropes here” then Police Commissioner Bill needs to deal with the perverts in Times Square like he would any other crimes and not go around suspending legitimate and harmless advertising that was bringing more visitors and increasing the City’s ad revenue.

Those media owners and advertisers affected by this have been largely silent; perhaps because they don’t want to be branded insensitive to the very real issue of public sexual assault – however it is in my opinion that “Love Is On” has become a scapegoat for what is a growing problem in this area – brought on probably a lot more by the nude painted models who have set up shop there.

This post actually does have a point: don’t let this bump in the road discourage advertisers from owning not just the valuable real-estate in 2016, but more importantly to use it for the purposes of a “kiss cam” style video feed. People have been coming to Times Square for a year to see themselves up in lights, and the personal connection the brand makes with their adoring groupies below has no parallel in advertising, regardless of the channel.

Brands, get your Love On and make sure that billboard has a crowd-cam in 2016.

Anyway, here is the latest update if you care to follow this ongoing saga:

Mike GamaroffMike Gamaroff