A Cigarette on a Condo Billboard? Cut That Out
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A Cigarette on a Condo Billboard? Cut That Out

Advertising on 'The Avenue' condo under construction at Avenue and St. Clair West
Advertising on The Avenue condo, under construction at Avenue and St. Clair West.

Let’s just say you’ve got an advertising brief in front of you for a new ultra-upscale Toronto condo.
This condo, The Avenue, is being built on the very edge of exclusive Forest Hill. It’s got twenty-four-hour valet parking, a private elevator to your suite, million-dollar price tags, and all the other things that make Toronto Life so very excited.
To attract your core audience, you’re going to be thinking glamour. Exclusivity. You’re going to want to appeal to the fabulously wealthy and devil-may-care. People all about conspicuous consumption, who sprinkle powdered gold on their breakfast cereal and shop for cat litter at Swarovski.
Well, what’s more glamorous, dangerous, and expensive than smoking? Congratulations—you won the contract!
Smoker Girl, as we will call her, starred in an ad at the southwest corner of Avenue and St. Clair West, cigarette in hand, starting in early March. She oozed sophistication and class. (She also oozed a little tar from her fingernails.) And then, about a week after she first appeared, her cigarette vanished from her fingers.

Not everybody who went past this corner was the ad’s target audience, and so many may not have appreciated the three-metre-high Hepburn-a-like flapper with a coffin nail. Avenue Road is a major route into the city from the 401, and thousands of cars drive past every day, not to mention fleets of Greyhound and Ontario Northland buses, whose passengers must be dying for a smoke after a seven-hour ride from North Bay. To cap it all off, the girl was a puff and a gust of ash away from 55 St. Clair West, home of the Ontario division of the Canadian Cancer Society—an organization not commonly thought to be fond of nicotine.
Billboard adverts promoting tobacco have been under a federal ban since 1997, but adverts promoting something else, which happen to feature cigarettes, are a different story. There’s no law against it, as far as we can tell.
Still, someone decided that something had to be done, and so the cigarette was meticulously removed from the ad, leaving a thin cutout of a rectangle in its place.

Close-up of the advert
Close-up of the advert.

Torontoist can’t decide whether that bowdlerized banner was a complete, crashing snafu, or a work of genius: cutting a cigarette-shaped hole in a cigarette, revealing a cigarette-coloured piece of building underneath, did not really make it look as if Lauren Bacall here was no longer holding, you know, a cigarette. (What were we supposed to think she was holding? A hot sausage?)
Alas, the ad altogether disappeared sometime early Friday morning. Our emails to Camrost Felcorp, the firm behind the construction of the building, asking why the advert was taken down, were left unanswered. And on Sunday afternoon, a new advert appeared with a different picture of a woman clad in black getting out of the back of a limousine. Presumably she was arriving at Smoker Girl’s funeral.
All that’s left to do is marvel at the architect whiz who configured the building behind the advert precisely so that the sliver of it visible underneath the ad still looked like a cancer stick. Rest in peace, Smoker Girl, and your not-very-invisible invisible cigarette.
Gum, anyone?
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.