Ad for Lactation Cookies Returns to Times Square

Molly Baz, the cookbook author, and her pregnant belly, rhinestone bikini and breasts will be back up in Times Square, uncensored.

A week after The New York Times reported that her billboard for lactation cookies had been “flagged for review” and swapped out for a more conservative image by the company that powered the billboard, Clear Channel, the ad has found a new home. The probiotics supplement brand Seed has donated their billboard to Swehl, the breastfeeding start-up that created the cookie campaign with Ms. Baz. Clear Channel still has not responded to requests for comment.

The original imagery, with the words “Just Add Milk,” will now run for the next three weeks alongside a Seed billboard with a clear message: “Dear Molly, Thankfully we’re not (lactose) intolerant.”

The partnership was the direct result of the anger and backlash on social media over what many called unjust censorship, said Ara Katz, the chief executive and a co-founder of Seed. The ad that featured Ms. Baz included no nudity — her breasts were covered by her cookies — yet was flagged despite the fact that Times Square billboards regularly run sensual lingerie ads.

Ms. Katz read the original Times story last week and was determined to help. She reached out to the company that powers her company’s billboards, Lightyear Media, which did not just agreed to bring Ms. Baz back. “The women who work there gave us additional ad inventory for free,” Ms. Katz said. That would allow the ad to run more frequently.

“It feels so much bigger than this campaign and this ad,” said Elizabeth Myers, who founded Swehl with Betsy Riley. “It is actually this moment of time we’re in — women are really tired of the double standard around our bodies.”

After the original ad was removed from circulation, several brands reached out to Swehl to find ways to help get it back up. One advertising company put the ad up on a truck on Tuesday and drove it around Times Square for eight hours.

But given that Ms. Katz founded Seed because of her own personal struggles with breastfeeding, the company felt like the most organic partner for Swehl, Ms. Myers said, even though the founders had not known each other before this week.

“We’ve all become really fast friends,” Ms. Katz said.

Advertising has long had an ambivalent relationship with women’s health content. It was not until 2017 that an ad for period products was allowed to run using red liquid, as opposed to what had been deemed the more palatable blue. In 2020, an ad by the mother and baby care brand Frida that realistically depicted the pain of postpartum recovery was barred from airing during the Oscars. And online content related to women’s health or breastfeeding is often censored on social media, as was the case for the baby care company Tommee Tippee, which ran a campaign titled “Boob Life” for its breast pumps, depicting a montage of realistic breastfeeding vignettes and breasts.

The rejection of an ad, however, can prove to be great publicity, thanks to the reach of social media.

The controversy around Ms. Baz’s ad drove more than 200,000 new users to Swehl’s website, representing a 500 percent increase in traffic, and Ms. Myers said the company’s sales on Amazon had doubled, though Swehl did not share exact sales figures.

“It’s been a really, really wild roller coaster of a week,” she said.

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