A billboard that created controversy along Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas was taken down early Thursday morning, September 6, at around 6:20 a.m.
The sign, advertising SPY sunglasses, read: “Happy to Sit On Your Face.” The sign's removal created more controversy when a protest group of 20 formed at around 7:00 a.m. — supporting the sign and the company. The group, lining both sides of 101, received honks from passing motorists. Some of the protest signs read: “I'm Happy.”
SPY's marketing director, Devon Howard, says their billboard was a teaser in the first of a five-billboard campaign to announce the company's February 2013 release of a new type of sunglass lens, which will be branded as “Happy” glasses because they will allow in sunlight's blue light spectrum.
Studies have identified “blue light” as possibly helping humans feel better, keeping one more mentally alert and emotionally present. The building industry, along with auto manufacturers, are also experimenting with blue light glass. A few window companies now offer glass that allows blue light.
SPY, founded by surfers and skaters in Carlsbad in 1994, has used the Encinitas billboard for over a year for various ads. They continue to hold the lease. By September 15, the company's second ad in the “Happy” series will be put up. The company is requesting that the current billboard, advertising Scripps (which was underneath the controversial SPY promotion), be painted over immediately and left blank.
Clear Channel Communications, the sign's owner, did not share with the company how many complaints were received, or from where — government officials or community activists? Howard said SPY has received “tons of support from emails and phone calls. It put a smile on people’s faces when they drove to work.”
Clear Channel originally approved the ad's wording. They announced late in the afternoon on September 5 that the sign would be removed early the next morning. NBC's Channel 7 and San Diego 6 both sent news trucks to the site, and Chip Franklin's KOGO radio talk show covered it live, all of which helped to create the impromptu protest that followed the sign's removal.