Let the head games begin! With final preparations underway for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, it appears that one company has made an unsuccessful bid to disqualify a Missoula player from competing—on the playing field of commerce, that is. Reagan Outdoor Advertising, a national sign and billboard company that reportedly dominates the Salt Lake City market, has put the official kibosh on several promotional billboards created for the Brighton Ski Resort in Utah’s Cottonwood Canyon. The ads, created by the Missoula-based ad firm, Spiker Communications, poke fun at the controversial practice of polygamy observed by thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among the messages that got the deep-six this year was an ad for the ski resort’s high-capacity chair lifts that reads: “Wife. Wife. Wife. Husband: High-speed quads,” and another that reads, “Bring ’em Young: Kids 10 and under ski free,” a word play on the name of the second LDS Church president and prophet, Brigham Young.
This isn’t the first time that Spiker Communications’ irreverent brand of humor has ruffled feathers in salty town. According to company president Wes Spiker, the ad firm teed off members of the Olympic Committee in the last three or four years with other billboards for Brighton that read: “Proud host of zero Olympic events,” and another for Brighton’s ski school that read: “You don’t have to be an Olympic Committee member to get into our school,” a reference to the bribery scandal involving Olympic Committee members. “We got letters from their very expensive downtown San Francisco law firm on that one,” Spiker recalls. Curiously, the Spiker ads were also spiked this year from the Salt Lake City Airport, though past jibes at the LDS Church, including one billboard that read: “Why be wedded to just one resort?” have raised nary a peep from the church. Ditto for another campaign that somehow passed censorial muster this year, which reads: “The most intoxicating thing in Utah,” a reference to the dearth of alcoholic options in the mostly abstemious Mormon city. Meanwhile, the Mormon Church has remained mum on the whole ordeal.
“It’s all been Mr. Reagan being a censor,” says Spiker. “He’s saying what’s appropriate or not. And frankly, he’s in the minority because the radio stations and TV stations all love the campaign.” Ironically, the story has become a hot topic of chitchat on Salt Lake City morning radio shows, providing the ski resort with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of free advertising.
Reagan Outdoor Advertising President Dewey Reagan told the Salt Lake Tribune last week that “Polygamy is not a socially acceptable practice throughout the majority of the world, and it’s not something Reagan wants to be associated with in any way.” In the past, Reagan has censored other polygamy-related messages, including a billboard for Wasatch Brewing’s Polygamy Porter, which is marketed under the slogan, “Why have just one?”
According to Spiker, his firm has since canceled some of its contracts with Reagan, who has threatened a lawsuit. Spiker adds that since the highly publicized fracas, other Salt Lake City billboard companies have come out of the woodwork with offers to run the Brighton ads, including several owned by members of the LDS Church. So who says the Mormons don’t have sense of humor?