Erie, Pa., residents are calling the scandal ``Mildred-gate.'' There are no interns, but it does mix sex with a sensitive topic in the plastics industry: recycling.
Protests from an Erie County Council member pushed a local television station to stop running an ad touting plastics recycling because some residents considered the advertisement sexually suggestive.
That's right. Recycling. Sexually suggestive.
The ad in question, from the National Association for Plastic Container Recovery, features senior citizens in a variety of settings, including two men talking about a woman named Mildred who ``does it three times a day.''
The innuendo builds until the end of the commercial, when Mildred tosses PET bottles into a recycling bin.
``There were blatant sexual overtones to this person called Mildred,'' said Joy Greco, the council member whose protests sparked a controversy that has hit the front page of the local paper and taken up time on talk radio.
``They are referring to her recycling,'' Greco said. ``That's not evident until the very end, not through the first 25 seconds.''
NAPCOR President Luke Schmidt said the ad was not designed to offend anyone.
``Like any ad, it is designed to catch the viewers' attention, and inform them about recycling,'' he said. ``It is clearly a lighthearted, fun commercial.''
Charlotte, N.C.-based NAPCOR made the public service ads several years ago for local recycling agencies, and has not received any other complaints about them, Schmidt said.
``We are sorry if this one individual was offended but we've had lots of positive feedback,'' he said.
The ads had been running on WSEE in Erie since September.
Greco said she was told about the ad by people calling her, and decided after viewing it to ask county officials to pull it.
After all, she said, the ad featured a tag line saying it was sponsored by the Erie County government.
``This was not only demeaning to women but also to seniors,'' Greco said. ``Hey, I recycle and I appreciate their efforts to help the county. [But] I appreciate that we have to keep our values.''
Since the controversy erupted, several dozen people have called to thank her, she said. But Schmidt said local officials told him they appeared on a radio talk show and every caller expressed concern about pulling the ads, and that officials with the TV station, WSEE, said they did not get any complaints.
Natalie Behan, Erie County's recycling coordinator, said she initially pulled the ad after Greco contacted her, but she said most callers to her office and on local talk radio have ``thought it was ridiculous that it was taken in that light — that one council member had censored a commercial.''
``It's difficult to get people excited about recycling, but this was a creative way to get people interested,'' Behan said. Nonetheless, she said, the county will probably opt not to run the Mildred commercial and instead run other NAPCOR ads.