Hook-up site AshleyMadison.com is again courting controversy after debuting a new billboard campaign south of Columbia, SC, that uses a photo of ex-Governor Mark Sanford to sell its tryst-arranging services.
The ad appears on Interstate 26, 25 miles from South Carolina’s state capital, Columbia, and takes up two stacked billboards. The top billboard reads “Next time use…” next to a photo of Gov. Sanford. The one below reads “AshleyMadison.com to find your ‘running mate.'” The lower billboard also features the website’s slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair.”
The site’s CEO, Noel Biderman, claims that he hopes his billboards will lead to more acceptance for adultery and cheating and less criticism for those who indulge in such behavior.
“We are trying to get people to distinguish between capability, and what goes on in the bedroom,” Biderman said. “There are few voices speaking on behalf of those who are unfaithful. Once we found out [Sanford] was back in business, that’s the story we want to attach ourselves to. We believe careers shouldn’t be lost because you choose not to sustain monogamy.”
Sanford drew criticism in 2009 for an extramarital affair that eventually drove him from the Governor’s office. Now, Sanford is running for Congress in South Carolina. His campaign has not released a statement on the billboards.
There is no word if AshleyMadison.com ever considered using Democrat Anthony Weiner in ads in New York; the married Democrat resigned in disgrace from Congress after sending nude photos of himself to young female admirers. Former Democrat Governor Eliot Spitzer, who became infamous as “Client No. 9” when he was swept up in a prostitution scandal in New York and was driven from office over the scandal, could have served as another billboard model.
Since its 2001 launch, the Canadian-based website has been controversial for marketing its services to people already in marriages or committed relationships. Biderman has said he wants his site’s name brand to become “the Kleenex of cheating.”
This isn’t the first time that AshleyMadison.com used a famous person’s image without asking prior permission. In 2012, the site was sued by the Queen of Spain for using her image in advertisements without permission. Eventually the website apologized for using the queen’s image.