Has Sin City become Squeamish City?
You might think so if you go by the public ad controversy here involving some flesh-baring ads that model Heidi Klum did for Sharper Image.
The series of ads had been tested before New York and Los Angeles audiences without a hitch, the company says.
But Vegas and its McCarran International Airport?
Not a chance.
Too racy, according to the company that manages the airport's indoor advertising.
Las Vegas-based Alliance Airport Advertising determined the images violated Clark County codes designed to protect families that pass through the airport.
Would that be those cute little tykes who come to watch their parents gamble away the mortgage payment?
The ads show the 41-year-old model posing in skimpy undergarments, topless, and at times completely naked – next to several Sharper Image items, of course.
One ad promotes a bathroom speaker system from the electronics and gift products company. Its caption: “What keeps Heidi Klum in the shower?”
She's totally nude, but strategically posed.
Shauna Forsythe, owner of the company responsible for pre-screening all airport ads, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that two of the multiple ads showing Klum in various states of undress violated county codes that prohibit “the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering or any portion thereof below the nipple.”
“Two of the ads were deemed noncompliant,” she said. “The code is very specific. It states that nudity is banned.”
So, in a city where the seven deadly sins are on full display, isn’t that just a bit, well, prudish?
“We have a contract with the county, so my opinion doesn’t matter,” Forsythe said. “We live by the guidelines. Who cares if we think it's too risque or not? It’s black or white with us.”
Dari Marder, chief marketing officer for Sharper Image's ad firm, Iconix Brand Group, criticized the move.
"We are shocked that the Sharper Image ads featuring Heidi Klum have been banned in Las Vegas — of all places," she said in a statement. "We believe the campaign is tasteful, beautiful, and, while sexy, not inappropriate in any way. The reaction to it has been fabulous to date and it is running in all forms of media without any issue.”
Some cynics might suggest that this escapade smacks of campaigns run by clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, which has received widespread news coverage -- read, free advertising -- with controversial ads that prompt a public reaction that spills over into the news pages.
“The team with Sharper Image has done a good job of that,” said airport spokeswoman Christine Crews.
But there’s a happy ending – which isn’t always true in Vegas.
Iconix submitted “amended proofs” last Thursday, Forsythe said, and five ads were approved to run from Jan. 3-9, during next year’s Consumer Electronics Show -- both in billboard form and on the big, garish and noisy electronic screens, as the company requested.
No harm, no foul.
Whew. Now there’s no need to cover the kiddies’ eyes.