Why Do Some Subway Ads Get Rejected for Being ‘Overtly Sexual’ and Others Don’t?

Brands like Unbound and Thinx have had a tough time with the approvals process

Video: John Tejada; Editor: Breana Mallamaci
Headshot of Katie Richards

This past May, women’s sexual wellness company Unbound created an artistic advertising campaign to introduce people to the brand. The idea was to run the campaign on the New York City subway system, but that didn’t quite work out. Unbound submitted its ads to the MTA and Outfront Media, the organization that manages the MTA’s advertising and enforces its guidelines, and heard shortly thereafter that the ads would not be allowed to run as they were.

Why? They were deemed by the MTA and Outfront to be “too sexual” and were therefore not approved to run on any NYC subways. Period underwear company Thinx faced a similar problem a few years prior, and both companies had to turn to social media to gain some traction, while other brands like men’s health companies Roman and Hims (famous for those cactus ads used to illustrate erectile dysfunction) had a relatively easier time getting their ads approved.

So what gives? Check out Adweek’s video to learn a bit more about the approval process and what Unbound is doing to raise some awareness for the brand and its advertising campaign.

Outfront and MTA did not respond to requests for comment.

@ktjrichards katie.richards@adweek.com Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.