Cookbook author speaks out following controversy over lactation cookies ad

Molly Baz, who is pregnant, appeared in the ad, which ran in Times Square.

May 13, 2024, 11:04 AM

Molly Baz is speaking out following controversy over a Times Square billboard featuring the pregnant cookbook author promoting lactation cookies.

The digital billboard features Baz, a New York Times bestselling cookbook author, with her belly visible, holding two lactation cookies up by her breasts. Behind the photo of Baz is a message that reads, "Just Add Milk." Baz said the 45-foot ad marketing her lactation cookies for Swehl was supposed to celebrate breastfeeding moms.

"It's super disheartening and infuriating to me that my, kind of, first public foray into being a public mother was one that was deemed inappropriate," Baz said.

PHOTO: Molly Baz is seen during the 2024 South Beach Wine and Food Festival on Feb. 25, 2024 in Miami Beach, Fla.
Molly Baz is seen during the 2024 South Beach Wine and Food Festival on Feb. 25, 2024 in Miami Beach, Fla.
Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images, FILE

Brex, the company that sponsored Swehl's billboard, told ABC News the ad was removed following a message from Clear Channel, which owns the digital billboard. According to Brex, Clear Channel said the image depicted was "flagged for review."

"Brex deeply believes in Swehl's mission; therefore, we approved the creative on our side and secured the ad space so they could run it in Times Square. In fact, we buy billboards for many of our customers through our Brex card rewards program - most of whom wouldn't be able to access them otherwise. We had been running the Swehl ad for several days when we received a message from Clear Channel noting that the ad was 'flagged for review,'" Brex said in a statement.

"That can mean that people complain[ed]," explained Zoe Ruderman, a chief content officer for Adweek. "So, it means either the channel or the billboard in Times Square received complaints either from a few very important people or some very vocal people on social media, or it can be a lot of people."

Said Baz, "From my perspective, the imagery that we put together was no different from any of the other ads that are in Times Square."

Brex also told ABC News it initially "misinterpreted" Clear Channel's message to mean that the ad "had to be removed, and communicated this to Swehl," which subsequently "provided a different ad, which was rotated in."

"The ad was never pulled ... and no ad space was lost for Swehl," Brex stated.

ABC News reached out to Clear Channel for comment but did not receive a response.

Swehl, however, told ABC News it received an email from Brex on May 9 stating that Clear Channel had removed the ad because "it violates their guidelines for acceptable content," not that it was "flagged for review."

"Molly and Swehl concepted our campaign to infuse fun and strength into this rite of passage; so you can imagine that our team was infuriated to hear the ad was pulled for being 'unacceptable' without any further context," Swehl said.

According to Baz, the concept was meant to "empower" pregnant women and the cookies in the ad are marketed to help postpartum moms produce nutrient-dense breast milk.

"We wanted a picture that showed a woman that was really empowered in her pregnancy and so there was a lot of different poses and stances, and the one that we chose is one where I am fully belly out ... holding these two cookies," Baz said.

The New York Times first reported this story, noting the original ad was intended to run for one week, from Monday, May 6 through Mother's Day.

Baz has since posted about the controversy in her own Instagram post showing the article.

"[T]ake one look at the landscape of other billboards in times square and i think you'll see the irony. bring on the lingerie so long as it satiates the male gaze," Baz wrote in part in her accompanying caption.

"There's a bit of a history of, I will say, a double standard that when bodies, specifically breasts are shown when it comes to selling lingerie, let's say, that's more acceptable but when it's something having to do with prenatal wellness or postnatal care, nursing, that tends to get flagged and we see a little bit of backlash," Ruderman added.

Baz said she was told the billboard was being taken down in Times Square but that the controversy isn't going to stop her from showing her pregnancy publicly.

"We're going to keep amplifying this message that women and their pregnant bodies and everything that pregnancy and breastfeeding entails is something to celebrate," Baz said.

Related Topics