Turns out, America isn’t as open and accepting as we may have thought.
The “As American As” campaign from news media company Fusion and its creative agency SS+K, was meant to be controversial, especially in the run up to the latest US election. They expected images like gay men kissing, a drag queen standing on her stoop and an African American baby wearing a “My Life Matters” t-shirt to spark a public conversation about diversity and inclusion in America.
"As the country has become more diverse, so has the portrait America. We want a new generation, the rising mainstream, to put their fingerprints on this quintessential expression of Americana because we are no longer simply as American as apple pie,” said Stephen Leps, vice president executive creative director at Fusion at the time the campaign came out last November.
What the teams didn't expect were for those images to be rejected outright in some of the most the US’s most cosmopolitan and diverse places, even on a building in New York’s Lower East Side – a place that nearly defines diversity.
In response to the censorship detailed below, Fusion and SS+K created a new billboard in Manhattan — this time with the censored images crossed out. “X marks the spot of censorship,” the billboard says. “See the images America wasn’t ready for.”
New York City, NY: Essex Street
While media partners approved the imagery, the placement in the Lower East Side was taken down due to complaints by the building owner on which the images were featured.
Stamford, CT Bus Shelters and Billboards
A major Connecticut media company rejected all of the imagery of gay men kissing and a woman holding her covered breasts. After various phone calls, they ended up rejecting all LGBT imagery and, while they agreed to approve some of the photographs, they required that Fusion or SS+K sign a waiver to cover any financial costs related to vandalism of the allotted bus shelters and billboards.
Philadelphia, PA: 15th street station domination
Philadelphia’s Transit Authority, SEPTA, initially rejected the imagery but after multiple rounds of editing, they finally agreed to a set of ads for the Union Station domination out-of-home placement. However, they changed their minds at the last minute and rejected an image of a drag queen standing on a stoop simply drinking a cup of coffee. They also rejected the two gay men because of the appearance of men's' nipples – even though they approved the image of a topless male Asian rapper.
Some of the censored images can be seen on a dedicated Fusion web page.