Does negative message come from billboard aimed at positive change?

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 16, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 16 at 7:03 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS - There are billboards up and down Canal Street in downtown New Orleans.

One sign across from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel is generating a lot of attention.

The sign reads: "BLACK MALE RETURNS WITH GUN AND TAKES VICTIM'S LIFE AROUND 2:45 AM."

"I think it's negative," said Kenneth Smith, who works in the local tourism industry.

"It makes it sound dangerous here," said Dave McClure, a visitor from Illinois.

"I'd read that and think it's racist," said Kelsey Langley, a visitor from Australia.

Look close enough at the bold letters on the sign and a second message: "BLACK MALE TURNS LIFE AROUND" appears.

"We call the campaign "Flip The Script" because we see the positive within the negative," said New Orleans Deputy Mayor Judy Reese Morse. "We believe it is possible to flip the script on this difficult issue and to turn this issue around."

Award winning producer director Spike Lee and Mayor Mitch Landrieu introduced the anti-violence campaign earlier this month.  They admit the sign is meant to be provocative.

But, visitors appear confused by the message.

"Anyone that's walking around the town at 2:45 a.m. is going to see any black male and think that they're going to kill them or something like that," said Chiamaka Isiguzo, a visitor from Minnesota.

"It doesn't scare me but I think I'd have to sort of take a moment to sit and look at it and read it and then maybe get it that way," said Langley.

"Black male turns life around. If you want to say that, say that, don't put the other letters in there," said McClure.

"From an advertising standpoint, messaging has to be in your face five to seven times before it really starts sinking in," said longtime New Orleans advertising executive and Tourism Marketing Corporation President Mark Romig.

Romig says as long as people are talking about the message on the billboard, that's an indication that the campaign is working.

"We're all in this together and for us to hide the issue is probably worse than confronting it. Let's hope this that it wakes up everybody to an important message."

Morse hopes people living a dangerous life on the streets of New Orleans will also get the message.

"We are trying to send a message to them, it doesn't have to be this way. There are other options. There are other lifestyles that they can chose."

For more information on the "Flip the Script" Campaign click on nolaforlife.org

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