President Obama – the accidental model

His political halo may be slipping, but Barack Obama is still a brand that some in the commercial world just can't resist exploiting. How else to explain the huge advertising billboard that appeared above Times Square this week featuring the President as Male Model-in-Chief?

The poster, showing Mr Obama in a rugged pose during his visit last year to the Great Wall of China, may be down just as quickly, with the White House moving to object. But probably it will already have served its purpose for the Weatherproof Garment Company.

Cheeky but effective, the stunt was dreamt up by Freddie Stollmack, the company president, who thought he recognised the particular garment the President was wearing when he saw pictures in the newspapers. "With a magnifying glass, we saw our logo and zipper pull, and we said, 'That's our coat,'" he said this week. He then paid the Associated Press for the rights to use one of their photographs. AP confirmed that the transaction with Weatherproof had been proper but stressed that it was up to the company to get the necessary clearances to use the image in an advertising campaign. But if that meant asking Mr Obama for his permission, no such request was lodged.

A negative reaction by Mr Obama was foreseeable – after all, the ad is not even in a good cause. Michelle Obama popped up this week in an anti-fur campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a beautiful woman with no use for pelts. And the White House complained about that one too.

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