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Overbrook billboard lures prospects for 'sugar daddies,' draws criticism

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 12:04 a.m.
David Conti | Tribune-Review
A billboard advertising the ArrangementFinders dating site, featuring former porn star Bree Olson, was set up this month on Route 88 in Overbrook.

Sure, the billboard features a former porn star pushing a dating site that seeks to match college students with “sugar daddies.”

At least the sign that went up Sunday on Route 88 in Overbrook doesn't make an overt reference to oral sex, like the site's spring billboard campaign in Chicago.

“We wanted to make it humorous,” said A.J. Perkins, chief marketing officer for ArrangementFinders.com, discussing the Bree Olson billboard that the dating site had to move twice in the Windy City because of blowback from building owners. “It was beyond the headache in terms of trying to keep it up there.”

ArrangementFinders' new ad still features Olson, an adult-industry celebrity whom Hollywood bad-boy Charlie Sheen once called his “goddess.” In this version, she's acting like she's putting on makeup, beside the words: “Hey Students, Need a Summer Job? Date a Sugar Daddy.”

Perkins said the Toronto-based company targets its marketing at cities with big college populations, which is how it picked Pittsburgh for its latest monthlong ad. The site looks to connect women, who get free access, to men who pay $49 to $79 a month so they can work out “mutually beneficial relationships.”

“I think it's a terrible message. I'd like to think that women and girls we deal with are well-equipped to make better choices,” said Amy Parker, executive director of Strong Women, Strong Girls Pittsburgh. The mentoring program has programs on five city university campuses.

“It preys on young women who are about to be potentially financially vulnerable and may not have gained the strength to see the danger in this,” she said.

Perkins said the sugar-daddy match-up appeals to a specific group of people looking for companionship.

“The site's not for everybody,” he said.

He said the site faced criticism as it advertised in other cities. Some say it borders on promoting prostitution, which Perkins denied.

“You're not paying x for y,” he said.

Cpl. Raymond Schafer of the state police vice squad at Troop B in Butler agreed.

“You can pay for companionship,” he said. “Until money exchanges for a sexual favor, that's when it becomes illegal.”

ArrangementFinders will evaluate after 30 days whether the billboard increased membership with exposure to an estimated 16,000 motorists who drive that stretch of road daily, and the Port Authority T line that runs by it. Perkins said the site had about 8,000 members living within a 25-mile radius of Pittsburgh and 2.1 million nationwide.

The advertising push won't likely include a visit by Olson, who has appeared at some of Pittsburgh's strip clubs.

“She's our face for these campaigns, but scheduling is nearly impossible,” Perkins said.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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