Barely Legal

By Matt Donnelly | Boston Magazine |

Legal Sea Foods’ longtime slogan declares, "If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal." Perhaps the restaurant company should be thinking about changing that. Say, to "If it’s making sexual advances from the side of a trolley, the MBTA doesn’t think it’s legal."

Last May, Legal kicked off its "Really Fresh Fish" ad campaign with pictures of scaly smart alecks plastered to the sides of Green Line trolleys, poking fun at both riders and drivers. (One version rather infamously proclaimed, "This conductor has a face like a halibut.") When T operators carped that the advertisements were offensive, the MBTA took them down, and Legal halfheartedly apologized.

But now Legal and its ad firm, DeVito/Verdi, are back at it, once more pushing the bounds of the MBTA’s good taste. The second round of the "Really Fresh Fish" campaign was to hit trolleys in August; however, it’s been stuck in limbo, the two sides unable to agree on just how fresh is too fresh.

Three of the five new posters Legal is proposing (pictured here) are "profane" and violate court-approved guidelines for advertising, according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. The T is willing to run only ads emblazoned with "Kiss my bass" and "Is that a worm in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" (Weird, because those aren’t exactly things you’d find Elmo saying to Mr. Snuffleupagus, either.)

DeVito/Verdi president Ellis Verdi wants to run all the ads or none of them. He says the MBTA suffers from a tragic lack of humor. "It’s just some tongue-in-cheek," Verdi says. "If you read [the T's] guidelines, they’re very broad, and these ads are not pruriently sexual. No one is going to be titillated by them."

For the time being, then, it’s a standoff. Who blinks first? At least we know it can’t be the fish.