Yesterday, jacket company Weatherproof installed a billboard above the Red Lobster in Times Square starring a model who was neither a fashion professional nor size zero. Progressive! Or perhaps just crass. President Obama appears strolling pensively along the Great Wall of China in a photograph the AP took in November. But Weatherproof did not ask the White House for permission to use the photo in such a fashion. They now call the jacket he wears in the picture “the Obama Jacket”; company president Freddie Stollmack has been gloating over the president’s choice since he ordered a high-res version of the photo and examined the logo and zipper pull with a magnifying glass to determine that it was, in fact, Weatherproof.
A spokesman for Obama told the Times, “The White House has a longstanding policy disapproving of the use of the president’s name and likeness for commercial purposes.” A White House aide is expected to contact Weatherproof today to take the ad down. But will they do it? Well, when asked if he was taking a risk with the ad, Weatherproof’s president responded with a bit of sass:
“Is it a calculated risk? Not being an attorney — I’m being, really, a designer, merchandiser guy in the apparel business — I would leave that to the attorneys or whatever. We’re not saying President Obama endorses Weatherproof apparel.”
He added: “If we were to get a letter or a call from the White House saying they didn’t approve of it or they didn’t like it or whatever, or they see it as an ad, we’ll do whatever we have to do. We’re not looking to alienate the White House.”
Oh, of course. What were we thinking? A gigantic graphically enhanced picture of the president wearing a Weatherproof jacket with a Weatherproof logo hanging above a restaurant in one of the most highly trafficked regions in the world isn’t an ad. It’s just a pretty picture of someone who’s wearing something he likes but doesn’t endorse. Obama could probably get an injunction against Weatherproof, but:
“[T]he advice any good lawyer will give is sometimes there are fights not worth fighting,” said Mr. Greenberg, a partner at Flaster Greenberg in Philadelphia. “And if Barack Obama were to win this fight, he would in fact be rewarding the bad actor, simply because the fight itself” — over an injunction and damages — “would go on for a very long time and provide tremendous return to this company that’s stealing his image.”
So it’s a lose-lose for the White House and a win-win for Weatherproof, which will get loads more publicity today alone before any legal action ensues.
Michelle Obama’s office is currently at odds with PETA over an ad of theirs featuring her without her consent. That issue is yet to be resolved.