Virgin Mobile Ad Pulled Down, ‘Too Provocative’ for Calgary


UPDATE and CORRECTION: Virgin Mobile Canada has contacted from us. According to them the tip I received on this was incorrect and the only ads that ran in Calgary were the heterosexual ones. Two of them were pulled down however. Apologies for the error.

In December I posted about this ad campaign from Virgin Mobile Canada. It's being pulled from bus stops in Calgary for fear the children might see it. A similarly-themed, heterosexual ad will remain on the bus stops:

"Calgary Transit will remove two of three ads after 'several' customers found them offensive, spokesman Ron Collins said yesterday.

A third Virgin Mobile ad, which features a man and woman kissing with his hand on her clothed thigh, has been deemed acceptable and will remain, said Collins. 'The two that we've removed were a little bit too provocative,' he said.

Virgin Mobile spokesman Nathan Rosenberg said the company is surprised by the reaction. 'It's quite interesting for us because these are the sorts of images people are bombarded with every day,' he said.' We don't think that we're actually doing anything that encourages people not to express their love in a healthy relationship or in a healthy kind of way.'"

I can't seem to find the straight image from the campaign online – can anyone point us to it?

UPDATE: The ad that will remain up, below. Thanks readers.



  1. Nicole says

    Paulie is totally right – Alberta (along with Saskatchewan) is the most conservative area of the country. I don’t think most people in BC and Ontario would bat an eye (other than to ogle it, maybe). This is the first time I’ve seen it, but I’m going to be keeping my eyes peeled whenever I pass a bus stop now.

  2. Tim says

    Perhaps the LGBT community should object to the heterosexual version of the ad as “objectionable,” too. Just saying, since it doesn’t take a major outcry, but minor objection, to get an image pulled.

  3. David in Houston says

    The only difference I can see in the ad that survived is the couple’s lips aren’t touching. Aside from that, all three have provocative imagery.

    This “think of the children” nonsense shouldn’t be tolerated. It continues to foster the “two men = bad”, “man plus woman = good” philosophy.

  4. Adam M says

    Perhaps we need to start complaining about heterosexual content in ads. In some cases it could be offensive to the LGBT community as well. Don’t think it would do any good, but it might point out the hypocrisy of pulling ads for gay content.

  5. GregV says

    It always amazes me how politicians and advertisers will use the objections of “several” people as an excuse for bigotry.
    A friend of mine in Canada went to see his local member of Parliament who had told the media he was voting against same-sex marriage because of “letters from my constituents.” When my very polite friend asked about those letters, he was shown about a dozen which came all from one church group in Alabama — thousands of miles away.
    So if a dozen members of the Klan in Mississippi complain to Virgin that they don’t like seeing black people on TV, will they react to that, too by exorcising all blacks from ads?
    Shoot, I had just said last week that I was considering switching my cell phobe plan to Virgin because they were being so progressive… now, not so much.

  6. PatrickPATRICK says

    Offensive double-standard aside, my professional point of view thinks…

    Virgin Mobile missed a great publicity opportunity here. They could have gotten a good deal of press if they had been bold enough to pull ALL of their bus ads from the ad company.

    They could have taken the attitude that they believe in equality and will not financially support this kind of intolerance.

    Bus shelters are cheap. The moderate amount of press they could have gotten would have been a hundred times more valuable compared to the cost of the ads.

  7. Joe says


    Why would this make you reconsider switching to Virgin? They aren’t the ones who pulled the ads! It was Calgary Transit! maybe a reread of the post is what’s in order for you!

  8. Calvin says

    Yah, if people read the article correctly, it wasn’t Virgin that pulled the ads. It was the Calgary Transit people who own the ad space who pulled them.

  9. KBR says

    What a double standard. But here’s another one.

    I’m Black and I’m wondering why people are always pairing up Black men with White women in ads? You almost never see Black women paired with White men. White people are the ones creating these images. Why are White people so preoccupied with these interracial images with Black men? WHY?????

  10. JSH says

    Calvin – “Share your thoughts” does not always have to be negative. Virgin Mobile can decided to pull all the ads, and replace them with something that Calgary Transit can’t use to discriminate, or maybe not advertise with Calgary Transit at all…they are a part of this as well, and might be interested in feedback.

  11. Eric26 says

    I was going to say, “because white guys aren’t really attracted to black women” but then I realised that sounded pretty racist, so I did some (not much) research. Apparently the white guys that are attracted to black women prefer the women to have facial features and mannerisms that aren’t too “black”, and somewhat thinner bodies. I don’t think there’s been any official studies, but this link is interesting :

  12. JeffRob says

    I would say it’s a combination of two things:

    Our society’s need to emasculate and de-blackify black men as much as possible for our own sense of security;

    and the fact that the rape of black women by white men was an integral part of the systematic oppression of slaves and their descendants in this country, and the casual use of the image of that pairing for a sexy ad is in a place we just can’t bring ourselves to just yet.

    That….that’s what I’d say.

  13. Dickster says

    I’ve been hoping to stumble across the queer ad in Toronto. Although I’m out and about a lot, I haven’t seen one. Even in the gay(er) parts of town.

  14. Jeremy Elder says

    Hey everyone!

    I work on the Brand Marketing Team at Virgin Mobile Canada. I’ve emailed Andy, but just wanted everyone to know in the meantime that the gay version of our recent spot NEVER ran in Calgary.

    There are four versions featuring four couples – one gay, three straight. The two versions that were pulled in Calgary both featured straight couples.

    So they were all considered “too racy”, not just the gay one.

    Follow our twitter for updates or to ask questions: @virginmobilecan


  15. tcw says

    By all means complain to Calgary Transit

    But know that this ‘gay friendly’ Virgin campaign is BS. The straight ads are all over downtown Vancouver bus stops – including at the corner of Burrard and Davie, the gayest intersection in town – but good luck finding the gay one anywhere!

  16. Dickster says

    Here’s an excerpt from and link to an article in today’s Globe. Mississauga transit has pulled some of the straight ads as the fellow’s hand placement was too provocative. These offending ads have been replaced by the gay one!

    “Mississauga removed the two ads last month, and Virgin replaced the offending images with a similar, but less salacious, ad depicting two men embracing on an office desk.”


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