The 'Take Me' posters contain a message about sexual consent. (CBC)

A Nova Scotia government ad campaign designed to get people talking about sexual consent has sparked complaints it is sending the wrong message.

The posters in Halifax and Sydney proclaim in large letters "Take Me," but the small print reveals the full message is "Take your hands off me."

A second reads "Do me," while the small print changes that to "Do me a favour and leave."

Both carry the tag line: "Hear what she's really saying. Sex without consent is a crime."

The $60,000 campaign was developed by Communications Nova Scotia. It asked groups of young men aged 16 to 25 how to get the message of sexual consent across. The signs were based on their ideas.

Many of the young men said they didn’t talk about the concept of consent and that creating the posters as they are would grab their attention and convey the message about consent.

Missed the mark

Sherri Bain, an advocate for survivors of assault, applauded the province for raising awareness, but questioned the approach.

"Their design team, I think, missed the mark," she said.  She worries the message could be misinterpreted.

"For someone driving by, if they're seeing 'take me' and 'do me,' I'm concerned that it may do exactly the opposite of what they're intending," she said.  "Our city needs to find another way to advertise besides being so overtly sexual."

The attention-grabbing nature of the ads is intentional.

People get the message

Stephanie MacInnis-Langley is with the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women. She said the controversy showed the campaign was working.

"It would be effective in grabbing my attention. The large lettering that is ‘take me’ or ‘do me,’ I know people find it a bit edgy or a bit difficult to see the connection," she said.

"What people are saying and what we've gotten in feedback over the last several days is that people see the large lettering and they're stopping and going back and reading the small print."

She said that drives home the message that non-consensual sex is a crime.

The campaign will run in bus shelters, restaurants, bars, online and at universities for the next four weeks.