Beyond the Headlines

Bye-bye Bridget

Posted: Jun 1, 2012 1:40 PM ET Last Updated: Jun 1, 2012 1:40 PM ET

It looks like Halifax Harbour Bridges and Bridget aren't going to be best friends forever.
You know Bridget, the fictional vixen created for the bridge authority to encourage commuters to practice safe driving on the city's bridges.
In radio spots, billboards and the @listentobridget Twitter feed, Bridget tells her presumably male target audience that "Bridget likes a driver who takes it slow" and with a sultry voice that sounds like a bad Marilyn Monroe impression, warns drivers to "watch your speed on my bridge, fast boy."
Let's not kid ourselves. Sex is still used to sell everything from beer to sports cars. But it is 2012 and most image-conscious organizations tend to stick with more mundane, politically correct ad campaigns.
So it should have come as no surprise that Bridget raised more than a few eyebrows. The push back began almost immediately. Hundreds signed an online petition to stop what it called a "sexist and demeaning" ad campaign.
Now several women's support groups, led by the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, have published an open letter to the bridge authority. They say the "campaign promotes and encourages treating women not as respected persons in our society, but as objects to be disrespected."
It gets worse. The letter says Bridget's Twitter feed "has resulted in responses that actively promote violence against women."
Halifax Harbour Bridge says while it "appreciates their opinions" it disagrees and "would never have a campaign that encourages sexual assault."
But while it tries to defend the campaign, it's clear it wasn't expecting these kinds of accusations.
Allison MacDonald, HHB's communication manager, says while they didn't think everyone would like Bridget she admits "that people feel so strongly one way or another was a surprise."
Can Bridget survive the uproar? It doesn't sound like it.
The radio spots and billboard buys end in about a week. HHB says it will "evaluate" Bridget over the next few weeks and will decide then what the campaign will look like in the fall.
Hardly a ringing endorsement.
Creating a safety campaign that has people talking is an ad agency's dream. Creating one that has respected women's groups accusing you of promoting sexual violence is a client's nightmare
My guess is once the bridge commission completes its "evaluation" over the summer, Bridget will be filed in the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" drawer, never to be seen again.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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