Friday, November 1, 2013

Is this ad really controversial?

AdFreak's Roo Ciambriello quips, "Political statement? Plea for tolerance? Maybe in part, but this recently posted Los Angeles billboard featuring a U.S. soldier and a Muslim woman embracing is mostly just an ad for a sleep aid."

That's how I feel, too. The brand wanted to show "couples that you normally don't see in advertising,"t their spokesperson explained, and that diversity follows through in the Snorestop web site:

The funny thing about this, for me, is that it's hard to find concrete examples of this "controversy".

CBC Los Angeles quotes the company spokesperson saying "“People feel that we are trying to misuse the image of military servicemen" but the only person the article interviewed about it was ambivalent.  World Bulletin ran the headline, "LA billboard ad to stay despite offending Muslims" without any specific examples, stating "...the image of a Muslim woman embracing a US soldier in such a way may be upsetting for the Muslim community in LA." An article in 10 News San Diego mentions negative Facebook messages. I can't seem to find any on their page. Nor on Twitter.

As a matter of fact, the "controversy" seems to be entirely a manufactured one, with media accepting whatever the brand says about public reaction to its campaign. An Instagram post of the billboard by stephanianne, who claims to be one of the people behind the campaign, reads "if we can keep this couple together, with their religious and social obstacles, we can keep anyone together."

My first thought was, why would anyone assume the husband does not also follow Islam?
There are thousands of Americans serving in the military who are practicing Muslims. 

The News 10 article identifies the couple as "veteran Jamie Sutton and his wife Aleah, who is Muslim" with no reference to Mr. Sutton's religious views. (Because in America, I guess being Christian is the default faith.) But who cares, really?

I'd love to believe that Snorestop really is committed to treating all couples as, well, just couples. But the lengths they have gone to, to make sure their campaign gets PR for being "controversial",  shows that they are just part of the problem.

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