If you’ve driven I-94 through Wisconsin on the long slog back to civilization, there’s not a lot of scenery to entertain you other than the occasional bull semen pun from ABS, the artificial insemination company for cows.
“The cattle-act of the A.I. (artificial insemination) industry,” is one that had ’em heading for the median recently. So did the Christmas-themed “Angus we have heard on high.”
The ABS billboard still stands near Madison (in DeForest) despite highway beautification programs that outlawed billboards along many of the interstates. But the ABS billboard was grandfathered and has become a traveler icon.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explores the history of the billboard today, calling attention to a contest to submit more puns the company can use.
“We have people who go by and can’t figure it out and it will dawn on them a few miles down the road,” said Vern Meier, tour specialist who has worked for the company for 481/2 years, “and they’ll call us and say, ‘What was on the other side?'”
In the 1970s, ABS Global had a fleet of trucks making deliveries throughout the United States. Often truckers would see the new slogan and pass it along to other drivers.
“We knew it was a good one if truckers on the West Coast heard it within eight hours,” said Meier, who gives tours of ABS Global. The No. 1 question on his tours — who does the “bullboard”?
Even when there isn’t a contest, Francois gets quite a few phone calls, emails and letters about the “bullboard,” ranging from suggestions for new ones to questions asking the meaning of some of the slogans. Recently, callers wanted to know why “At ABS every day is Wednesday” was on the board. Francois explained that Wednesday is known as hump day.
Then there was the woman who saw the slogan “ABS has designer genes,” so she stopped at the office because she wanted to buy blue jeans.
Meier can only remember one slogan that was taken down early — after military members complained that “The few, the proud, the frozen” was demeaning to the Marine slogan of “the few, the proud, the chosen.”
The puns submitted can only be “ABS, dairy, or beef related slogans connected to any of the following categories general, seasons, holidays, hunting, back to school and sports.” They can’t be more than 46 characters.
The last time the company ran a contest was 2012, a good year for Jackie Shankey of Black River Falls who won with, “With ABS, your calves are only an arm’s length away.”