Driving my son and his friends in the carpool to Pali High the morning of November 4, I noticed something incongruous as I reached the “S” curves—a sign planted in the dirt that read, “Juicy Ladies, promoting the Woodland Hills juicerie.
“That’s not very cool,” I said to the teenagers in the car, who nodded and grunted. I hadn’t gone 100 yards before I noticed another. And another. We began counting, and there were no fewer than 16 signs all along the Scenic Highway. Where one might hope to see scuttling rabbits, grazing deer, or perhaps a stealthy coyote, we were instead being bombarded with advertising!
My 9-year-old daughter Imogen sounded yet another alarm as we drove up School Road: “Dad, more signs!” Sure enough, another half dozen had sprouted like mushrooms on the short road up the hill to the school.
“They’re proliferating like rabbits!” an alarmed friend texted. “There must be hundreds of them.”
“Has anyone else noticed this?” I asked on Nextdoor. Everyone in our canyon enjoys the seasonal “This-a-way” to Topanga Days sign, the hand-painted bills for the Topanga Nutcracker, “Boo-tanicum,” and the school’s spring musical. Like the events they are promoting, that’s the stuff of a small community. When a business in a neighboring community sees the tens of thousands of eyeballs passing through our canyon as a marketing opportunity, it feels opportunistic and cynical. Not to mention the potential environmental implications of these flimsy plastic-and-styrofoam signs. The responses on Nextdoor ranged from outraged (“It’s illegal! Boycott Juicy Ladies!!”) to sympathetic (“They’re just trying to make ends meet.”).
When I called Juicy Ladies a little later that morning to lend my voice to the chorus, a very pleasant woman on the phone assured me that they had already had “tons of calls” and would be working to take the signs down. However, a bit later I heard the owner of Juicy Ladies was reporting Yelp reviews that were critical, and calling the police accusing those who had phoned about the signs of harassment. A much smarter public relations response would have been a public apology and the immediate removal of the signs. As of late afternoon that day, the signs were still there.
My greater concern was that there had now been a precedent set. What was to prevent businesses from the Valley to the Westside from following suit—seeing thousands of gridlock-bound automobiles as literal sitting ducks for their marketing message?
We all want local businesses to thrive, and as the owner of a marketing and advertising firm, I can appreciate a good guerrilla creative campaign. However, you must know your audience. This was a marketing and PR blunder of the most fundamental kind for Juicy Ladies. I would hope they might ultimately recognize what those of us who live here do—that a treasure like Topanga, the State Park, and the Scenic Highway should not be compromised or it may soon look more like Lincoln Blvd. or La Cienega than historic and beautiful Topanga Canyon road.
By Sean Colgin