An ad is an ad is an ad, but an ad that gets pulled gets publicity. Kenneth Cole, the high-end shoe-and-accessory designer, likes his progressive promotions splashy—in particular, his annual national campaign for AmFAR. Two years ago, one ad that read “If the Pope had AIDS, he’d need more than your prayers” so mortified Catholics that they threatened a boycott. This year, AmFAR folded early after a mess of press. It yanked the message “Prayer won’t cure AIDS. Research will” from public transit systems in 19 cities nationwide after protest from people, many of them Texans, who took offense at the ad.
“It’s a swipe in our face. We don’t oppose AIDS research, but our beliefs shouldn’t be offended,” said David Miller, executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the American Family Association. “Prayer does change things, and God can do anything He wants.”
That’s not all. Some school boards and AIDS educators complained about the ad that read “Sexual abstinence won’t cure AIDS. Research will” because they believed it contradicts the information they give kids. A third, about red ribbons, drew nary a peep.
“AmFAR seeks to educate, not offend the public. Since the complaints over two of the ads distract from our crucial message—that only medical research can generate true solutions to AIDS—we have decided to discontinue the campaign,” said AmFAR chair Dr. Mathilde Krim.
“It was the right thing to do from AmFAR’s point of view,” Cole said, “but it’s a decision I regret. With all the talk of an end to the epidemic, the AIDS crisis today is even more urgent than ever before."