Victory! Goodwill Removes Billboard

Denver’s branch of Goodwill Industries, the thrift-store chain that has always positioned itself as a helping hand to diverse communities across the U.S., recently launched a new series of advertisements with the slogan “The Goodwill Effect.” Riding my bike last week in the city, I came across the following billboard for the campaign: “She discovered Chunky Monkey. We got her jeans. The Goodwill Effect.”

I did a double take. The message is that once a woman discovered ice cream, she became too fat for her jeans?

That’s correct, confirmed Vanessa Clark, public relations specialist for Goodwill Industries of Denver, when I called her for comment. “She outgrew her jeans and she donated them to Goodwill.”

Clark told me that the campaign is a “tongue-in-cheek” effort to reach out to a younger crowd, aiming to dispel the negative impressions that thrift-store goods are well-worn or out of style and touching on the different reasons why individuals might choose to donate.

But to me, this billboard feels like a reaffirmation of the idea that women live in a pro-diet, anti-enjoyment culture of food dictatorship–a place where we cannot control ourselves, to the point that we eat so much ice cream we grow out of our jeans. And it is offensive.

Further exchanges with the retailer seemed to demonstrate a vested interest in correcting the situation. And to Goodwill’s credit, it did. The day we spoke, Clark wrote to tell me that the Denver branch of the company “decided to replace that billboard and take a different approach, because our goal is to represent Goodwill as the ultimate socially responsible retailer.”  The ad was featured on two billboards in Denver.  One billboard has been taken down already and the second ad will be removed within the next 48 hours.

The rest of the “Goodwill Effect” campaign, which emphasizes giving back to the community, has a less gendered (and to my eye, less offensive) message. The other slogans, printed on bumper stickers, include the innocuous “My other ride is a Goodwill shopping cart,” and the more iffy “The junk in this trunk is changing lives” (which strikes me as less sexist than the “Chunky Monkey” billboard, but what do you think, readers?)

I left this encounter with the strong impression that Goodwill Industries walks its talk of community support and responsiveness. Boo to a bad advertising campaign, but cheers to a fast and active fix, Goodwill.

Billboard photo by the author.



  1. Thanks for this; I, too, saw this billboard and it bugged me… and I just couldn’t put my finger on exactly why.

  2. And… no issue in particular with “junk in this trunk” billboard 🙂

  3. How about: “She discovered the great outdoors. We got her couch-potato pants.” or something more empowering….

  4. I am really impressed with Goodwill’s fast action! I think I can handle a little junk in the trunk.

  5. You said: “But to me, this billboard feels like a reaffirmation of the idea that women live in a pro-diet, anti-enjoyment culture of food dictatorship–a place where we cannot control ourselves, to the point that we eat so much ice cream we grow out of our jeans. And it is offensive.”

    But I think you meant: “But to me, this billboard looked like fodder to write an outraged magazine article, which I would be out of a job if I didn’t do. It didn’t strike me as important at all that this billboard represents the hard work and reputation of many people at a marketing firm, trying to do their job, which in this case is to encourage people to DONATE TO GOODWILL.”

  6. No, I don’t see the jeans billboard as offensive at al.

    It could just as easily imply that Goodwill is the place where women of all sizes—who should be free to eat what we want/when we want–can find jeans in the size which we personally need. We

    I actually liked the jeans ad better.

    It was promoting a healthy body image for women. We weren’t consigned to what the media says we have to look like. We can feel free to look like what we want.

    • beautifulthingfromthenorth says:

      Sometimes I wonder if when Ms. critizes big companies that get people to comment and defend them while not actually telling you they work for a corp, just pretending to be a random commenter.

    • I agree there was nothing wrong with the add. It did just what she said it would do and that is to let women who are fashion conscious know that they too can find stylish clothes at goodwill. A lot of people think it is only a place to find ragged out or size 62 extra huge clothing. However the add that does bother me is the one I hear over and over on the loud speaker when I am shopping there is the one about the husband asking his wife three different times if she has seen some article of clothing he is missing and her replying each time something about it being used by someone else now. He then says “I’m missing something here aren’t I?” Only to have her reply in a condescending tone, “As usual” with her explanation that she gave his stuff away to Goodwill. I find this quite offensive against men. Mind you I am not a man. I am however sick of men being made out to be brainless buffoons by Hollywood and now the culture. I wish more men would be outraged. What is this teaching children? Really annoying.

  7. Daisy Cake says:

    It’s a clever slogan, and it could have just as easily said “HE discovered Chunky Monkey”. The only reason it didn’t is because, like it or not, a stereotypical view of the overweight female exists. Is that unfair? Perhaps. Would it be any fairer if this stereotype was placed upon males in our society? Definitely not. The use of the pronoun “she” in this advertisement was probably deliberated over by a group of marketing professionals for a substantial period of time, before it was decided that in the modern world, people would realise that whether it was “he” or “she” was irrelevant.

    Daisy, a fourteen year old girl who believes women should equal, but not greater than, our male counterparts.

  8. Heaven Sakes says:

    Considering that when I read it I thought that Chunky Monkey was the name of yet another over-priced, but trendy pair of jeans, I found absolutely nothing wrong with it! The junk in the trunk ad is not offensive to me, either.

  9. I love the “junk in this trunk” billboard. It’s funny and neutral.

  10. Goodwill is at it again!! Please find below the letter I wrote to the Hartford CT Courant for another insenstive billboard. It references the above incident.

    Goodwill’s Wrong-Headed Billboard

    Lyne Stokes, West Hartford

    The writer is with Advocacy Unlimited, which works on mental health issues.

    on 2011-10-12

    The “Attention, Hoarders” Goodwill billboard on I-91 north in Hartford is stigmatizing and extremely insensitive. Hoarding is a mental illness. Using the people that suffer from this as a target population for shopping is inappropriate.

    Hoarding destroys families and is a deadly disease. Mental illness is not a joke. Education is the cure to the ignorance of this disease. Information can be found at

    Goodwill has a history of bad billboards. In August, Denver officials complained about billboards that used a reference to women’s weight gain and being too fat for their jeans. Goodwill replaced that billboard, saying its goal is to represent Goodwill as “the ultimate socially responsible retailer.”

    This doesn’t appear to be the case. It continues to be socially irresponsible. Goodwill needs to take a look at its mission statement and ask how the reference to this deadly disease “enhances the dignity and quality of life of individuals, families and communities.” How can the community get this eyesore removed?

  11. beautifulthingfromthenorth says:

    I don’t understand why you wouldn’t find the junk in the trunk offensive. Obviously referring to buttocks in a way where they are covered because it could also be interpreted as the junk in the trunk of a car. I don’t like it ONE BIT! It’s implied objectification (if thats a term).

  12. cindy ridgway says:

    Junk in the trunk is silly and not that offensive. the other ad is kind of nasty.

  13. RadioOrlando says:

    Since the Huffington Post article by John Hrabe and the study aired by Brian Williams on NBC Nightly news about Goodwill’s pay problems there is now a multitude of these billboards in Central Florida. And the radio advertisements crank up every time any one mentions the Goodwill CEO salaries and the pay disparities in the Orlando Sentinel “ticked off” column. It’s damage control here and billboards and radio time are EXPENSIVE. They’re just not environmentalists. They announced in November they have stopped recycling due to expense. They do not used recycle paper and they go through tons of that. You donate to Goodwill, you do it because it’s easy, they have so many places, not because they actually help people. Look at the advertising pieces some time. Check the CEO salaries and look who is on the board of directors. They’re just good old boys hiding behind a 501C document.

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