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Was this Calgary real estate agent’s billboard too racy to show?

A Calgary real estate agent has stirred up controversy with a suggestive billboard. The Re/Max advertisement, shown in Calgary, Thurs., Feb. 7, 2013, features a closeup photograph of Diana Arvatescu and the invitation: ‘Let me take you home. It's gorgeous inside.’

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Would Don Draper approve of using sex to sell houses?

Since the advent of advertising, sex has been used to sell toothpaste, jeans, booze, cars and pretty much every other product under the sun, but some Calgary citizens are riled up over a suggestive billboard for allegedly employing a woman's sex appeal to sell family homes. Imagine! Situated on a busy commuter route, the billboard features a closeup photograph of Re/Max agent Diana Arvatescu smiling warmly and favouring passing motorists with the line, "Let me take you home. It's gorgeous inside."

While not exactly a Calvin Klein underwear ad, the billboard generated controversy on a local level. A social work professor at the University of Calgary denounced the ad as "sexually inviting and provocative." A rep for the Calgary Real Estate Board told Global TV Calgary that Arvatescu's advertisement was outside the "best practices" standards for an agent.

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More sobering, the billboard drew a response from Jeff Buziak, whose daughter Lindsay, a former real estate agent, was murdered while conducting an open house in Victoria five years ago. "It scares me that anyone would want to put an invitation out there," Buziak told a reporter with The Canadian Press.

As might have been expected, some media watchers dubbed the billboard a desperation move by a real-estate broker to drum up business in an ever-softening housing market (even though home sales in Calgary are rising at the same time they're dropping in other Canadian cities).

The Romanian-born Arvatescu, meanwhile, limited her response to the controversy, saying that she stands by her billboard. And there's virtually no insight provided by her Facebook page, save for a photo of the allegedly offensive billboard and several more glamour-style headshots.

But did the blonde-haired and blue-eyed agent cross a line in the first place? Is there anything morally wrong about an attractive woman using her looks to sell a home most likely to be bought by a family? Would a billboard featuring a handsome male agent with six-pack abs stir up a similar public response?

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