Business & Tech

Why did the MBTA bounce these mattress ads? Too spicy

DeVito/Verdi

Ads designed by creative agency DeVito/Verdi were removed from T trains for being too sexually suggestive.

The MBTA has removed a series of Bernie & Phyl’s mattress advertisements on subway cars because they were deemed sexually suggestive.

Just how suggestive?

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One says: “Good sex should never be followed by bad sleep.”

Another reads: “Is your bedroom furniture the most expensive contraception you own?”

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The ads may be edgy and irreverent, but MBTA officials were not amused. A T spokesman said the ads violate the agency’s guidelines against “prurient sexual suggestiveness.” The rules forbid the description of sexual activities “in a way that the average adult, applying contemporary community standards, would find appeals to the prurient interest of minors or adults in sex.”

Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the T’s advertising contractor mistakenly posted the ads for the Norton-based furniture chain several weeks ago.

A spokesman for DeVito/Verdi, the New York firm that created the campaign, said the action amounted to censorship, noting that while some of the mattress ads referenced sexual themes, one that was removed had nothing to do with sex. It read: “One in eight people die in bed. Some die more comfortably than others.”

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The agency also accused the MBTA of inconsistently enforcing its guidelines, noting that a separate ad campaign for Bernie & Phyl’s on MBTA trains earlier this year was arguably more sexually suggestive than the more recent one.

Those ads, which ran in January, were made to look like classifieds soliciting sex.

For example, one for a bedside table read: “Looking for one night stand? Then you’re looking in the right place. I’m attractive, short and full of personality. Take me home and bring me up to your bedroom tonight. You won’t be disappointed.”

The MBTA declined Friday to answer additional questions about individual ads.

DeVito/Verdi is no stranger to controversial campaigns. In the heat of the 2016 presidential race last summer, the agency created a series of edgy ads for Legal Sea Foods that alluded to Hillary Clinton as a cold fish, as well as to the size of Donald Trump’s hands.

It’s also not the first time DeVito/Verdi has wrangled with the MBTA.

In 2008, hundreds of Green Line employees and the trolley conductors union were not amused by ads featuring a wise-cracking cartoon fish who said things like: “This conductor has a face like a halibut.”

MBTA officials had the ads removed, calling them “inappropriate and disrespectful to employees.”

Megan Woolhouse can be reached at megan.woolhouse@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @megwoolhouse.
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