R.I.P. bear sex billboard: we hardly knew you

Image courtesy The Great PNW/Joel Barbour

One billboard, two bears having sex, and swift social media reaction = one viral marketing campaign success.

That's the combination The Great PNW clothing company was hoping for when they bought a billboard ad on First and Washington in downtown Spokane depicting two cartoon bears getting it on next to their label. And it definitely worked.

Chances are if you didn't see the billboard in question yesterday then you're seeing it on Facebook or Twitter today. The bears were only up for less than 24 hours before the billboard was replaced with a more generic ad for the company, but that was long enough for the furry freak session to go at least a little viral.

Joel Barbour, the Spokane-based clothing company's owner, will admit that he'd originally thought the sign might be up for a few weeks before getting featured on the news and possibly taken down, but either way, it's been worth it, he says.

"It worked out pretty well," Barbour says. "I think everybody understands it’s very lighthearted, and mostly childish."

And before you say, "Maybe you're just being dirty... they couldn't possibly have meant..." yeah, they absolutely did design two bears doing it. 

The design actually came from a hat the company has in the works that will be available at the end of the month. But likely by the end of today, a shirt with the design should be available on their site for $27.99, Barbour says. When we talked, he'd just been getting called by so many reporters he hadn't had the chance to throw it online yet.

The viral reaction actually came at a weird time for the company, Barbour says, because they're trying to focus on launching their second collaboration line with Rainier.

Ok, but really? You didn't plan the two to coincide on purpose?

"No, not at all, it kind of has caused a headache," Barbour says, because the company likes to dig into data on their web traffic to see which campaigns are successful. "We were already expecting a ton of traffic because of the Rainier stuff, but now we have even more from the billboard, so I'll have to dig through and find out where it's coming from."

For now, it's safe to say their site is far surpassing the traffic they got last year with the Rainier launch.

And a lot of that is probably coming from the many social media posts that blew up overnight.

I mean, William Shatner (at least, whoever runs his Twitter) has even weighed in on the thing: 
As far as marketing tactics go, the sign definitely got the company a lot of free TV time. Our local stations ate it up.

For anyone who was outraged, or just wondering where they could find it, the billboard's already been swapped out for a tamer message: