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Brown becomes an unlikely pin-up for Fijian tourism

It is one of the world's most exotic locations and is blessed with beautiful golden beaches and tropical blue seas, so you'd think the last thing needed to entice visitors to Fiji would be a picture of Gordon Brown with a scarlet flower in his hair.

But that's the unlikely image that the country's tourism board is using in its latest poster campaign designed to tempt Britons to the South Pacific islands this month.

The advert, which was released last week, shows a picture of the Prime Minister, complete with red flower behind his right ear, above the website address for the Fiji Visitors Bureau – Fijime.com.

It is, says the company behind the image, based on a "get me out of here" theme and is meant to reflect the pressures that Mr Brown has been under lately.

Jane West, the director of the Fiji Visitors Bureau, said: "Gordon Brown has taken his fair share of criticism lately and has been under a lot of pressure in his job. The advert is saying that if you've had a tough time lately, where would you rather be in the middle of February, Britain or Fiji? It's an exotic island and is a great place to come to get away from your troubles."

The poster was designed by the London agency DK Advertising and approved by Downing Street and the Advertising Standards Authority. It was meant to be one in a series of adverts starring other figures who might want to get out of the country. But the others, who include the Duke of Edinburgh, London's Mayor Ken Livingstone, and Jérôme Kerviel, the rogue trader who cost the French bank Société Gé*érale £3.6bn, are said to have refused to give permission for their images to be used, leaving Mr Brown as the sole face of Fiji.

Stel Tzirki, the media director of DK Advertising, explained: "We wanted to use the others too, but it was going to be too much hassle to get permission. Downing Street agreed that we could use Gordon Brown's image as long as it was not derogatory and it did not appear that he was endorsing the islands in any way. We showed them the image of the Prime Minister with the red flower behind his ear and they said it was okay to use."

The advert has already been seen around some familiar parts of London. It was beamed on to the side of the Houses of Parliament, Marble Arch and the Battersea Power Station as part of the promotion last week.

Ms West added: "Gordon Brown's face is very recognisable. We hoped that people who saw the adverts were intrigued to know why the Prime Minister's face was staring back at them and so visit the website."

Mr Brown's new-found status as a poster boy is not unheard of among world leaders. Last month, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, threatened to sue the airline Ryanair after it used a picture of him and his girlfriend, now wife, Carla Bruni. Matthieu Glasson, Ryanair's marketing manager for France, apologised for the use of the image.