Perhaps it was divine intervention?
An atheist-themed bus ad that ran on a Sudbury Transit bus in January has vanished, says the head of the local branch of the Centre for Inquiry.
Spencer Lucas said the group wanted the ad returned to them after the month was up for a couple of reasons, and was told to pick it up Feb. 11. But when he arrived, the ad was nowhere to be found.
“The short answer is, I have no idea,” Lucas said, when asked what happened to the ad.
The ad, which read, “Don't believe in God? You are not alone,” generated some controversy when it appeared, and generated much discussion online. Lucas said CFI intentionally chose a non-confrontational approach for their first foray into advertising themselves, and were pleased with the results.
The group's membership increased substantially, and their Facebook group grew by about 50 per cent and now sits at 150. So they wanted to keep the ad as a piece of history, marking the first time a secular group in Northern Ontario advertised itself.
“As far as I know, it's only the second time in Canada,” Lucas said. “So it was a rare thing, and for Sudbury it was a first. So yeah, it was a pretty big deal to us.
“A lot of our members were excited about it, and would have gotten a real kick to see the sign in person, since most didn't get to see it on the bus, other than in photos.”
Lucas wanted to bring the ad to the group's Darwin Day event Feb. 12, and planned to announce that one of their members had donated money to run the ad again.
“I thought it would be fun to display it to the people there, and to announce we were going to do a followup ad in the spring or summer,” he said. “This was a controversial ad. We know that from some of the feedback we've gotten.”
After repeated calls to the city and to BK Marketing, which handles advertising for Sudbury Transit, Lucas was told the ad might have blown away, which sometimes happens.
“It had survived for some time already, so I highly doubt that's what happened to it,” he said. “That seems suspicious to me.”
While most ads are one-time campaigns for specific events, Lucas was told they're generally stored at the end of the advertising period in case the advertiser wants to use it again. He specifically asked to get it back, and so wonders what happened.
“We have the money for another month, but now we have to replace the ad from our own pockets,” Lucas said, adding it cost about $155 to produce.
Not a large amount, but significant for a group that relies on donations from members for funding.
Shannon Dowling, a spokesperson for Greater Sudbury, said while the ads run on city buses, BK Marketing handles the installation and removal of all advertising on the buses. Dowling didn't have information on how many complaints to the city the ad generated.
Blaine Smith of BK Marketing said in an email Wednesday that sometimes, ads go missing at the end of an advertising campaign.
“When our installer went to remove the sign from the bus it was missing,” Smith wrote. “From time to time, external signs do go missing and we will co-operate with the authorities should an investigation take place.”
The CFI's Sudbury branch was formerly a humanist group, which is a global secular movement that rejects the idea that there are divine answers to human questions. Lucas said CFI is a broader organization that includes skeptics, atheists and agnostics.