Driving around Lincoln recently, I saw a billboard that caught my eye.
It was for the “Fireworks Emporium” in Rock Port, Missouri
The sign describes the Emporium as the “Home of the ‘Really Good Stuff'”. What does that mean? While they don’t specify anything, they do hint at it by mentioning their stuff is “NOT available in Nebraska!” In other words, things that are allowed under Missouri law, but not by Nebraska / Lincoln laws (bottle rockets, M-80s, among others).
I was able to get a low-quality picture of the sign with my phone before the light turned green:
Come get your illegal fireworks!
I am struck by the message, and I admire the balls behind this billboard.
They are saying: “Look – we know that Nebraska, and especially Lincoln, have some pretty restrictive fireworks laws. But we also know that you want to celebrate the Fourth by blowin’ up some stuff that is bigger, louder, and more awesome than what you could find in Lincoln. So take a short 80 mile drive down to Missouri and stock up on some seriously good stuff – the stuff that will impress your friends, scare the neighbors, and risk your fingers. Sure, much of what we sell is illegal where you live. But we don’t care. Just like you don’t care. So since you’re going to break the law, you might as well do it right – with us.”
In short, this billboard is saying, “Come buy your illegal fireworks from us!”
I know, I know – the majority of fireworks laws are notoriously under enforced, especially on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th of July (as well as the nearest weekend).
However, the State Fire Marshall’s website states very plainly:
“It is illegal to transport fireworks across the state line as stated in Nebraska State Statute 28-1248. Only a licensed distributor or jobber may bring fireworks into the state. You may also want to check with the US Department of Transportation regarding any restrictions or requirements they place on transportation of fireworks.”
But the good folks that Fireworks Emporium in Rock Port, MO don’t really care about that. Neither do the proprietors of the other big fireworks shops in Rock Port or Watson – two small towns in the northwestern corner of Missouri that are a bottle rocket’s flight away from both Nebraska and Iowa.
I wonder if other businesses employ this same strategy – enticing people with products and services that are illegal where they live.
The numerous casino billboards and commercials in Omaha (just across the river from legal casino gaming in Council Bluffs, IA) are the first thing to come to mind. But there is a key difference: For the casinos, you actually have to leave your state to utilize the product. With Rock Port Firework Emporium, you buy them where they are legal, but then you likely transport and use them in a place where they’re prohibited by law.
Now that marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, do you think the legal sellers pot are advertising in bordering states? Is there a billboard in Corvallis, Oregon advertising the Marijuana Emporium in Bordertown, Washington, taunting the locals with promises of the “Really Good Stuff” not available in Oregon?
For the record, I don’t have a problem with the Fireworks Emporium advertising in Nebraska, nor do I really care if product purchased there is blown up here (I will neither confirm nor deny having used bottle rockets inside the borders of the Great State of Nebraska). But as a fan of advertising, I can’t remember another ad with a similar message.