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Well, Missoula, we’re apparently in need of some cultural Viagra. President of Spiker Communications Wes Spiker says that Lamar Outdoor Advertising decided not to run Spiker’s billboard advertisement for the Missoula-based Cosmetic Surgical Arts Centre because it “just didn’t think Missoula was culturally up for it.” Dex Media and Mountain Line buses likewise banned the ad, which shows a photograph of a woman looking at herself in a mirror, her hands up her tank top, stretching the shirt to see what she might look like with a bigger chest. That’s what Spiker sees, anyhow. But the ad, it turns out, is kind of like one of those optical-illusions that elementary school kids look at and ask: What do you see first, the old woman or the bunny rabbit? In this case some people—including a random sampling of clients and family to whom Spiker says he showed the ad before pitching it—see a woman “obviously in a dressing room set-up of a department store with a full-length mirror, checking out a new tank top and wondering, hey, what if?” says Spiker. But to others—including Lamar General Manager Paul Dennehy (who was quoted in a press release by Spiker PR man Alan Rosenberg but unavailable for comment)—the ad shows a woman who might be construed as fondling herself. And fondling, of course, raises issues of morality, which, on the heels of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, Nicolette Sheridan’s Monday Night Football teaser and the outcome of the 2004 presidential election, has captured national headlines as if morality is going out of style. Maybe it’s all the reality TV makeover shows and Victoria’s Secret commercials that have stirred heightened sensitivity to these moral issues (placement of Spiker’s ad in a Southgate Mall kiosk across from the Victoria’s Secret store was rejected as well). But last time we turned on the tube for two seconds, those shows and ads were running, right here in Missoula. Rosenberg muses that perhaps people are more comfortable dealing with such issues on a national rather than local level. And in fairness, a small-town billboard can’t be turned off like a prime-time show. But to reassure those Missoulians wondering if their town is actually less liberal (does that mean more moral?) than they thought, Spiker says plenty of locals have no trouble with the ad, which the Missoulian did accept. For instance: Spiker’s 70-year-old mom, he says, detected no immorality. One Missoula woman who has had breast augmentation work done at the Cosmetic Surgical Arts Centre says she hasn’t seen the ad, but her reflection on her own decision to undergo cosmetic surgery may best relay what the controversial photograph intended: “It’s a really personal thing,” she says.

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