The Diesel ad on the side of the Rex, earlier in August, being put up. Photo by Nancy Paiva/Torontoist.
Diesel’s most recent ad campaign is stupid. The company’ll readily admit it: “Be Stupid” is the whole hook. Ads beg consumers to “Think Less. Stupid More.” Others warn that “There’s no cure for stupid.”
Stupider still, though, is the massive ad on the wall of the Rex at Queen West and St. Patrick streets—an ad that, according to sign-hunter Rami Tabello, is “totally illegal.”
The ad was put up by Strategic Media, but Director Daniel Pitoscia maintains it’s not illegal in the slightest. “The permit for the sign pre-dates the sign by-laws which came into effect this past April,” he told Torontoist; that permit, Pitoscia continued, allows for “a mural sign 225.2 meters square.”
Diesel’s ad, however, is not exclusively a mural: the bulk of the ad is painted directly onto the wall, but about a third of it—most of the section that reads “Stupid is good for you”—is painted onto a thin canvas on top of the wall. Vinyl mesh covers the building’s west-facing windows, and it’s painted on top of that, too.
Tabello explains that the ad is too large (that’s strike one against it), obscures windows (strike two), and is in part made of vinyl (strike three). A smaller, hand-painted sign that didn’t obscure windows would be allowed at the Rex, but only because of a permit issued for the address in the 1990s—the permit Pitoscia cited.
Reached for comment, Heidi Pekofsky, Diesel’s Canadian sales and marketing director, said that her company’s not happy. Diesel’s ads may be firmly pro-stupid, but “we don’t do anything that’s not legit,” she explained. “I’m shocked that they would sell us something illegal.”
According to Ange Kinnear, Executive Assistant to Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), a complaint about the Rex’s sign has been forwarded to City staff, and is being worked on. Right now, she also noted, a sign variance compliance unit tasked with keeping illegal ads off the streets is in the midst of hiring enforcement officers.
“We’ll get this taken down,” Tabello insists. “It’s just a matter of time.”