Officials in Tennessee have apologized for a campaign that was designed to curb driving under the influence — but instead drew criticism for promoting a sexist message.
The campaign — which has since been canceled by the state — featured drink coasters which read: “Buy a drink for a marginally good-looking girl, only to find out she’s chatty, clingy and your boss’s daughter.”
According to the Tennessean, it also included fliers that read: “After a few drinks the girls look hotter and the music sounds better. Just remember: If your judgement is impaired, so is your driving.”
Critics of the campaign suggested that its creators used impaired judgment themselves.
“I’m all in favor of being snarky in a campaign, but you don’t have to be sexist to do that,” Nashville marketing strategist Laura Creekmore told the Tennessean. “It is unfortunate for the young men of Tennessee if we think we have to be sexist to get the message across. When people see one of these slogans in a bar, they don’t understand the context of the campaign, they just see the message in front of them.”
Kendell Poole, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, apologized in a statement “for any offense caused by the 100 Days of Summer Heat Booze It and Lose It Campaign. Because one of the goals of many Booze It and Lose It campaigns is to reach our high risk driving population, the marketing is often edgy and designed to grab the attention of the young male demographic.”
“It was never the intent of the GHSO to be insensitive or insulting to women.”
The coasters, posters and table tents associated with the federally funded campaign “will no longer be distributed and are being removed from bars across the state,” Poole said, adding that a companion Web site has been shut down.
Many people criticized the campaign’s approach after its launch.
That group included John Ray Clemmons, a state lawmaker who told the Tennessean in a statement that he was “furious.”
“It is not only offensive, but it is also inexcusable and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Clemons said.
(“No state dollars are used for the marketing of campaigns such as Booze It and Lose It or Click It or Ticket,” the Governor’s Highway Safety Office said. Nashville Public Radio reported that the campaign was paid for with a federal grant.)
“My first reaction was cool, we got free coasters,” Tiffany Cannon, a 25-year-old waitress and bartender told the Tennessean. “But then one of my customers pointed out what was on them, and my jaw dropped.”
“They were anti-feminist. It was ridiculous and rude to both genders,” said Cannon, who became even more angry minutes later when she walked into the women’s bathroom and found a flier with similar advertising glued to the wall.
The costs associated with the campaign’s removal will be covered by the firm contracted to create it, the Governor’s Highway Safety Office statement said.
“The GHSO receives federal funding to change driver behavior through education and enforcement. No state dollars are used for the marketing of campaigns such as Booze It and Lose It or Click It or Ticket,” the statement said. “The table tents, posters, and coasters in question will no longer be distributed and are being removed from bars across the state.”