Escort agency defends 'Sensational Serena' billboard in downtown Winnipeg
Jeff Keele, with files from Cillian O'Brien
Published Thursday, April 25, 2019 9:03AM EDT
A large billboard for a licensed escort agency on one of Winnipeg’s busiest streets is raising eyebrows.
The sign for “Sensational Serena – Winnipeg’s Professional Companion” on Portage Avenue is believed to be a first for the city.
A previous advert on Academy Road, with the wording “Sensual Serena,” was revised as it could be interpreted as advertising sexual services.
But the woman behind the billboard believes she should be able to promote her business like any other.
"I can provide companionship that's what I do so therefore I feel I should be able to advertise that,” Serena told CTV Winnipeg.
She says a federal law has made it difficult to advertise in the Yellow Pages and in newspapers, so she decided to try a billboard.
"Like any other business you want to get your name out there and you want to build a clientele and be profitable,” said Serena, who CTV Winnipeg agreed not to identify over safety concerns.
Winnipeg Police Service said the billboard is above board.
"Sensational Serena is a licensed escort agency in Winnipeg under the doing business in Winnipeg by-law,” said the police.
“The current wording of the Sensational Serena billboard is not in contravention of the doing business in Winnipeg by-law, in that it does not specifically advertise nude or sexual services."
City Coun. Sherri Rollins was unhappy with the original “sensual” wording of the advertisement and its location “right across from the centre for child protection,” but accepts the current ad complies with city bylaws.
"It's been allowed I think since 1985 in the city, when we started looking at bylaws for escorts,” she told CTV Winnipeg.
But public opinion was mixed. Most people contacted by CTV News had no problem with the ad, but some did say it was a little offensive and inappropriate.
“I don't think that has a place on a billboard whatsoever or anywhere to tell you the truth," a passerby said.
Serena wants those people to know she's playing by the rules.
"I'm not saying anything inappropriate on the billboard whatsoever, there's all kinds of billboards that are a lot more provocative looking than mine,” said Serena.