This article has been updated. The original article was published on Wednesday, April 1.
An anonymous group of people who say they “love Asheville” painted over a prominent Pepsi billboard near downtown Asheville last night, Tuesday, March 31. The graffitists renamed Asheville “LOVETOWN” instead of “PEPSITOWN,” in an effort to urge Pepsi — and the community — to rethink the sign’s contents for the future.
FOR THE LOVE OF ASHEVILLE
Although the stunt was performed in anticipation of April Fools Day, the responsible party says, “We’re not joking when it comes to keeping the heart and soul of Asheville alive and free from being owned.”
“This news will … help people understand our intention to reclaim our town from those corporate interests who dare to claim it,” says one of the group’s anonymous members. “While we all know that the vast majority of wealth in this world is owned by corporations, most corporations do not stick it in our faces every day as we drive to work. We trust that this act of reclaiming the heart and soul of our town will stimulate a conversation about who and what this town really represents.”
The Love Town group says they did not contact Pepsi before painting the billboard.
“We expect the heartfelt people of Asheville to rally in support of keeping Asheville “LoveTown” over “PepsiTown,” says the representative. “The cat is out of the bag. If Pepsi now chooses to cover ‘Love’ over with ‘Pepsi,’ we trust that this will not be popular in Asheville.”
“We had a pretty good chuckle about it. I sent it to my wife,” says Moore Patton, corporate marketing manager for Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Hickory and creator of the “PEPSITOWN” billboard.
“But our intent is not what they think,” he says. “We’re a family owned business that has been here since 1928, and we’ve been involved with Asheville for years. [The sign] is a word play. I developed it. It was nothing more than just advertising Pepsi and trying to associate our relationship with Asheville, because Asheville has been mighty good to us.” Patton says he brought the phrasing to Asheville after seeing it used in another Pepsi territory.
Patton’s bottling company is not part of PepsiCo Inc., but rather a purchaser of the corporation’s syrup concentrate. The office in Hickory oversees four distribution warehouses that deliver the fizzy drink to 17 Western North Carolina counties.
“We’ve got 350 employees in our company, and every single one of them is well-paid, they raise families, they’re active in the community,” says Patton. “As a company, I’d like to think we’ve given back and will continue to give back to the Asheville community in a lot of ways.”
Patton says that he thinks it’s “a minority of people” taking a stand against his company — not Asheville as a whole. Although, he’s not yet sure who will foot the bill for replacing the billboard, his team is already busy brainstorming new “win-win” designs which “will make everybody happy.”
For now, though, commuters will have to cozy up to the scarlet letters.
“We’re not going to take it down immediately. We kind of like it,” Patton says. “They did a wonderful job with the artwork.”
FAIRWAY TO FOOT THE BILL
Rick Steele, general manager at Fairway Outdoor Advertising of Greenville, SC — the company who owns the billboard — says Fairway will pay to replace the advertisement “in the near future.”
“It will be our cost,” Steele says, adding that the restoration will prompt a “significant” expense for the company. “The land that that sign is on is not our property. We are leasing that, so not only is it trespassing, but it’s vandalism.” Steele’s company, however, will not prompt an investigation of the case “at this time,” he says.
Xpress could not reach the relevant property owners to confirm whether or not Love Town’s presence on their land was, indeed, unauthorized.
“This sort of thing happens periodically in the business, and we don’t want to make a huge deal out of it. We’ll just move forward,” Steele says, but “if it happens again, we’ll certainly consider our options.”
“We’re not a big fan of that idea — having our billboards painted on — but it was mutually agreed upon [with Patton] that we need to change it out,” says Steele. “I’m not exactly sure what date or if the message is going to change. That is to be determined.”
Steele says the event was “absolutely not” a publicity stunt, as far as he knows.
The Asheville Police Department has not yet responded to Xpress’ inquiries.
Here is the original news release from the “Love Town” spokesperson:
Have you noticed the giant billboard just West of downtown Asheville on HWY 240 declaring Asheville to be “PepsiTown”? If so, maybe you, like thousands of others, have wondered what gave a corporation the right to declare Asheville their town?
Last night, we who love Asheville, transformed “Welcome to PepsiTown” into “Welcome to LoveTown” by writing Love on top of Pepsi on the Pepsi billboard. We expect that as hundreds of people drive into Asheville today, they will experience a heartfelt smile knowing that they are driving into the town they love.
It may be April fools day, but we’re not joking when it comes to keeping the heart and soul of Asheville alive and free from being owned.
We love the mountains, the rivers, the magic and the heartfelt people of Asheville. So, if this town is to be described in one word, we believe that love is a more fitting description than Pepsi.
To Pepsi we suggest keeping the love and smiles alive by continuing to sponsor this “LoveTown” billboard. After all, can’t love and Pepsi coexist? The whole town will know that you’re behind it (actually underneath it). We can all appreciate a company run by people who know in their hearts that love is the “Real Thing” over and above any brand or product.
We invite residents of Asheville to contact Pepsi and encourage them to continue to keep the Love in this town and on the billboard. You can email their media relations office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep drinking in the love Asheville. We love you.