I met the fine crew from Mid-Ohio Atheists at Reason Rally, where they proudly informed me of their upcoming billboard campaign. And it turns out they have reason to be proud. This is how it’s done. Clean design. A simple, easily processed message. No clutter. Just the facts, ma’am.
For the last few years, American Atheists have been throwing billboards up around the country, and pretty much all of them have been a preposterous fail. Setting aside the often poor and flat-out amateurish graphic design on most of them (bad choice of colors and ugly fonts), they have either made the mistake of thinking that a billboard was an appropriate format for launching a philosophical argument; or they’ve made baseless, idiotic assertions that have simply left themselves wide open to snarky theistic ripostes; or they’ve just been muddled and borderline incomprehensible (remember that the message of a billboard needs to nestle firmly and swiftly in the brain of someone driving past it at 65 mph); or they’ve clumsily attempted to make statements about religiously inspired racism, only to trip over their own execution and faceplant, with the result that they were interpreted as racist themselves.
Seriously, guys, stop this shit. You’re embarrassing us.
Why AA always manages to get something that should be so simple so flamboyantly wrong is a mystery. (Perhaps effective billboard advertising is an area where they’d rather fly their Dunning-Kruger flag instead of spending a few bucks hiring a media consultant or PR firm.) But in future, maybe they should consider playing to their strengths, like organizing conventions and rallies, and leave campaigns like these to people who know what they’re about.
Addendum: Justin Griffith has replied, and points out that the Mid Ohio Atheists billboards were in fact produced with the assistance of AA. While it isn’t clear if designers Elliot Fuller and Brandon Adams are themselves AA members or graphic designers hired by the organization, it does appear that AA has taken criticisms of their past billboards to heart (the slavery one came in for some harsh opprobrium, really) and improved their message. So I appreciate Justin’s corrections and regret any unfairness on the part of my own criticisms based on misinformation.
Addendum the Second: Michael of Mid Ohio Atheists writes on their blog that AA did help MOA, by kicking an around 25% of the billboards’ costs, but that Justin overstates their involvement:
So Justin’s claim when referencing Martins original blog post that “Mid-Ohio Atheists billboards that he praises were in fact American Atheists billboards” isn’t 100% true. American Atheists were part, but only a small part and while we are extremely thankful to have had them involved I can’t help be reiterate the tireless dedication to this project that I witnessed from our President Ron Stephens and the other members of our group.
While I apologize to any individual(s) whose efforts might have been slighted by anything I wrote in my OP — though I’m really not the first or only one to point out that AA’s older billboards were not especially professional efforts, and I stand by my opinions of them in that regard — I guess it’s good that the record is getting set straight.