Controversial Ads Honored at OAAA Awards Ceremony

An outdoor ad campaign for Legal Sea Foods featuring wisecracking fish may have made a few enemies in Boston earlier this year, but it certainly was a hit with the outdoor advertising industry, as judges awarded the “Really Fresh Fish” campaign a gold award at this week’s Ninth Annual Out of Home Media Plan Awards.

The campaign, created by the New York advertising agency DeVito/Verdi, ran throughout Boston as cinema slides, on taxi tops and on the sides of trolley cars. In each, a salty fish imparts an insult or impertinent comment to a passer-by or movie-goer.

The Media Plan Awards, conducted by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, honor efficient and effective out-of-home media plans that maximize the synergies between media and creative strategies.

“What a great honor to be selected among the best by the OAAA,” said Ellis Verdi, president of DeVito/Verdi. “We had fun with the campaign, and I think it shows that the outdoor medium is one of the most effective vehicles to truly deliver a creative message.”

The campaign, designed to reach young urban professionals, succeeded in drawing substantial attention to the Boston-based restaurant group. The trolley ads in particular quickly created a whirl of controversy when the city conductors’ union demanded that a few of the more impudent remarks be removed, including one that opines: “This conductor has a face like a halibut.”

The trolley ads became a hot topic of debate not only in Boston, but also in the national news media, as several print, TV and radio news outlets covered the story of testing the legal limit of commercial free speech.

Other wisecracks from the “Really Fresh Fish” campaign included such zingers as: “Hey lady, I’ve seen smaller noses on a swordfish,” “This trolley gets around more than your sister,” “Hey ugly, you’re scaring the fish,” and “Your mother’s a blowfish.”

DeVito/Verdi, a privately held company, has been recognized as one of the most exceptional creative agencies in the industry. Its lengthy list of industry awards includes the top prizes at the Clios, Radio Mercury, Cannes, Andy, Addy and One Show award ceremonies. DeVito/Verdi, which has been voted “Best Agency” six times over the last 12 years by the AAAA, has created some of the most memorable ad campaigns of the past 15 years.

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