When The Dallas Morning News ran its story last Thursday about The Family Place's "provocative new campaign" on Dallas Area Rapid Transit buses, the agency, which assists victims of domestic abuse, said it had received few complaints. The ads, depicted above, began running on October 1, and DART spokesman Morgan Lyons told The News last week his agency likewise hadn't gotten a word of complaint.
But since the piece appeared, all that's changed: On Monday, the Associated Press ran a story about the campaign being waged against the ad campaign. Leading the charge is Los Angeles-based Glenn Sacks, self-described "men's and fathers' issues" columnist and blogger, who is trying to get DART to remove the signs that will run through the end of November. Sacks says they are, "to put it bluntly, hate speech against fathers." Lyons tells Unfair Park this morning that since Sacks began his campaign over the weekend, "We've received probably over 1,000 e-mails, but almost all of them have been outside of the Dallas DART service area or outside of Texas or outside of the country."
Lyons says locals didn't seem to mind the ads when they began running at the beginning of the month. The first call he received about them came from KTVT-Channel 11, which was doing a story about how CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Outdoor, billboard agencies, had refused to run the ads, which Lyons says met "community standards for the greater Dallas area," especially considering "the reputation of the Family Place."
Then, last week, he got his second call about the ads -- from Kim Horner, who wrote the initial story in The Dallas Morning News. Then a couple of local TV affiliates jumped on the bus -- and then, Lyons said, "we received maybe a couple of local complaints."
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But since Sacks started up his campaign, and posted a form letter easily filled out and e-mailed, "we've received probably over 1,000 e-mails," most, as he says, from well outside Dallas.
"And I've had a call from a newspaper in Hong Kong and an e-mail from New Zealand," he says. "And we had four folks come to the regularly scheduled board meeting last night and express concerns about the ads. But as of this morning, we had received fewer than a dozen responses to the online customer feedback form, and I haven't looked to see where those are from."
For now, the plan remains in place: The ads will run through the end of November. And Lyons says he's heard from Paige Flink, Family Place's executive director, that the ads have been effective. "They've been pleased with the response they've gotten in terms of calls from people needing help," he says. Flink was unavailable this morning.
Lyons says he's also gotten several calls from Canada -- among them, one from National Post columnist Barbara Kay, who yesterday wanted to talk to Lyons in advance of a piece that has appeared today. In it, she lambastes "DART's complacency around the exploitation of these children." She also writes that "the ad campaign is shocking and offensive on every level. How does it offend me? Let me count the ways." Which she then proceeds to do. --Robert Wilonsky