UltraViolet, a group that runs campaigns for women’s rights, recently began an ad campaign to target states that have big tourism industries and bad track records on women’s economic equality. The group requested to place ads in airports in Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas. (It has successfully run a round of ads in Florida.)
It’s “designed to elevate issues like paycheck fairness, minimum wage increases, and paid family leave and to expose the ongoing attacks on women’s health and economic security,” Karin Roland, campaign director at Ultra Violet, told ThinkProgress. “The goal is to shame and pressure candidates with industries that rely on tourism to make them champions for these causes.”
But despite this political goal, the group insists that the ads themselves are merely fact-based. “Women being discriminated against and the facts…aren’t issue advertising,” Roland said. “It’s just reality for women.”
That’s not how the airports view them. Spokespeople from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, Port Columbus International Airport in Ohio, and Louisville International Airport in Kentucky all confirmed that the airports had rejected the ads, offering very similar explanations: they were rejected for being political, violating guidelines.
“We have a policy in which we do not accept political advertising at the airport and so the ad was declined on those merits,” Angie Tabor, manager of communications & media relations at the Columbus airport, said. A spokesperson at the Charlotte airport said it “only accepts ads that are commercial or governmental in nature. The ad was neither. ” And Trish S. Burke, public relations director at the Louisville airport, said that ads there are “limited to those which propose a commercial transaction.”
The Dallas/Fort Worth Airport insists that it has no record of a request to place ads from the group, although also noted that its policy would prohibit them anyway and that it doesn’t have billboards outside the airport. UltraViolet confirmed to ThinkProgress that it did place the request. The spokesperson for the Reno-Tahoe International Airport similarly said he had no record of a request. Other airports didn’t return a request for confirmation and comment.
Roland contended that the campaign “isn’t political, it’s not issue advertising.” “For women, it’s about putting food on the table, paying medical bills, and affording college tuition.” An ad in Ohio, for example, was meant to tell passersby that nearly 18 percent of women in the state live in poverty, the state doesn’t guarantee paid maternity or sick leave, and an abortion ban closed five clinics in 2013:
An ad designed for Kentucky also notes the lack of leave as well as the fact that women in the state make 76 cents to a man’s dollar, lower than the national average of 77 cents, and that women pay extra for insurance that includes abortion coverage:
“The fact that these airports are rejecting fact-based ads is a real disservice to their states,” Roland said. “It should be public information, not something that’s hidden. We hope airports will reconsider and allow these ads to start a conversation about the shameful track record on women’s equality.” To that end, it’s launched a petition to get them to change their policies.
The group doesn’t plan to wait around, though. “We’ll make sure we get this message out whether airports want to accept these ads or not,” she said. It’s already launched an ad campaign online that is geo-targeted to these airports so that users in the area will see them and it’s looking into placing them on billboards in the areas surrounding the airports. “We’re looking at all the other ways we can target the same set of people,” she said.