Updated: Mar 17
Cesar Valentino Valdizan, owner of Super Seed, appears in an advertisement for one of the company's products. This picture was one of the advertisements that was turned down by the Woodbury Corp., according to Valdizan. Courtesy of Super Seed.
Super Seed International, a health and beauty company from Provo, is planning to file a sexism lawsuit against the Woodbury Corp., claiming it was denied advertising due to photos featuring a man with his shirt unbuttoned at the University Place Mall in Orem.
The company is asking why Victoria’s Secret can advertise in the mall, showing pictures of women in lingerie, but a company cannot advertise pictures showing a male with his shirt unbuttoned. Started in Provo 15 years ago, Super Seed approached Compass Outdoor Advertising, a Woodbury Corp. company, in January about advertising on a digital billboard on the Northstar building of the University Place Mall.
According to a press release, right before the billboards went up inside and outside of the mall, the campaign was pulled due to pictures that were deemed inappropriate and the fact that the male model’s shirt was not buttoned up.
“We sent them the photos and we were immediately denied by the account representative,” Super Seed founder Cesar Valentino Valdizan said. “ They said the photos were inappropriate because the shirt of the male model needs to be closed. They immediately sent us some photos from our Instagram page saying that certain photos were OK. We had never given them our Instagram page, so it’s almost as if they had it all planned out, telling us what we should put up.”
He characterized it as a double standard with regards to advertising. Valdizan and Super Seed then posed the question as to why well-known women’s lingerie store Victoria’s Secret can advertise at the mall, but it could not.
“At the same time you’re perpetuating female objectification, you’re sending that message,” Valdizan said.
According to emails reported by Super Seed, the Woodbury Corp. cited city restrictions behind the pictures not being allowed, but when asked to provide the documents, the company could not. Other emails cited by Super Seed added that the Woodbury Corp. would not display the advertisements as the owner did not deem them to be appropriate.
“The large digital sign on the 545 University Place office building is the first of its kind in the state of Utah, intended to be an aesthetic, architectural feature which abides by zoning ordinances and guidelines related to community standards,” a statement from Compass Outdoor Advertising said. “The opportunity to advertise on the large digital exterior screen on 545 University Place, which is an on-premise sign, is only available to the tenants of University Place, in accordance with the Utah Outdoor Advertising Act. Advertising within a tenants’ leased space, is under the reasonable discretion of University Place and the tenant. Super Seed International is not a tenant of University Place.”
According to Valdizan, Super Seed was in the process of finalizing a lease at the mall that would have made the company a tenant. Emails from Super Seed indicate that a lease agreement was close to being finalized, which is why the parties were in discussion of a billboard deal as well. Emails that were included in the press release from Super Seed noted that it was trying to advertise on a large billboard outside of the mall, but comparing the denial of advertising to smaller Victoria’s Secret advertisements inside of the mall.
“Certainly you are not trying to argue that what a tenant displays inside its leased premises should be regulated by the same standards as an outdoor electronic sign located on the side of an iconic office building,” an email from Woodbury said to Super Seed.
Valdizan said he was irate by the decision to not allow the advertising, saying that a major corporation can advertise images of women in bikinis, but a small business cannot use pictures with a shirtless male model.
Valdizan said he feels like this decision is a personal attack.
“Just because I am not a Caucasian model, my hair is not necessarily short, and just because maybe I don’t fit the standard role of what a model should look like, I felt like it was personal when he said, ‘The shirt needs to be closed up,’ ” he said.
Valdizan said that the Woodbury Corp. has done a lot of good in the state of Utah, but believes the corporation also needs to repair the wrongs he says it is committing. Valdizan said Super Seed is planning to file a lawsuit once a civil rights attorney is chosen unless the Woodbury Corp. decides to settle the issue privately.
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