Ad Agency Rejects ‘Uncomfortable’ Photo of Muslim Woman Embracing a US Soldier from Its Times Square Billboards


Media giant Clear Channel recently stirred up some controversy when it decided to flat out reject an advertising image of an American soldier embracing a veiled Muslim woman from its Times Square billboards due to its ‘uncomfortable’ nature.

The photo is part of an advertising campaign for SnoreStop, a line of over-the-counter snoring remedies. The company has already placed the image on a billboard in Los Angeles, with the pitch: If we can keep this couple together, we can keep anyone together.”

Here’s a behind the scenes look at the photo shoot for the disputed billboard:

Clear Channel executives rejected the ad for its Times Square billboards, however, citing it “sensitive nature” and “uncomfortable imagery.”

Which is sort of the point, a SnoreStop marketing honcho told DNAinfo. “There is no nudity or bigotry or hostility in our #BeTogether campaign,” said chief branding officer Christian de Rivel. “In fact, we are specifically and aggressively promoting diversity, equality and harmony.”

SnoreStop execs say the billboard was inspired by an actual couple — soldier Jamie Sutton and his Muslim wife, Aleah. Even the models are an actual couple — soldier Paul Evans and his wife — who agreed to be in the ad because they are “no stranger[s] to other people’s discrimination.”

A SnoreStop executive said the company is trying to place the ad with another agency with Times Square billboard space, but hasn’t gotten much response.

(via DNAinfo via

  • Lauren

    It’s not so much seeing people of different races, but rather how they are portrayed. This gives off a very “war bride” imagery to it.

    It would be like an ad with an African American acting in the manner of a minstrel show.

  • Aleesha Lewis

    I like how the idea of something being uncomfortable means we just don’t talk about it or acknowledge its existence. This is actually a really sweet campaign, and the fact that its based on real couples with a real couple used for the modeling makes it that much more touching. Most advertising is so low down, and grimy. It’s about tits and ass and violence. And then when a message of peace comes along we find it ‘uncomfortable’ and take it down. Clear Channel should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Stan B.

    This crime didn’t just happen “a century ago,” it lasted for… centuries.

    They were the only ones to turn it into a global, international business empire that built and supported the economy of an entire nation from North to South with its many ancillary businesses. Yes, first time in history (something you should read more about). Absolutely.

  • snapshot1

    This most likely was created for a video billboard seeing that it was going into times square. You don’t need much resolution for that.

  • Stan B.

    Lauren, I really feel weird ‘defending’ an advertising firm, but I think a variety of valid ‘conclusions’ can be drawn here. You must consider the context in which this content is being used here, it’s fairly unique and challenging.

    Treating women as whores (literally and figuratively) and worse in their ‘host’ countries is a long military tradition. I am more than aware of this. This photo can be seen as a way to disregard that fact- or it can be seen as a modern day Romeo and Juliet. I’m going to go against my own ingrained cynicism on this one and see it as a positive statement. I like how it comes off as two very equal people, the fact that it irks all sides, and that it has a subtle, but biting humor as well- not easy to pull off all in one shot.

    If it was coming from the government or military- I’d be dead set against.

  • Christian de Rivel

    looks to me that yes we are separated by “a 10ft pole”.
    Nothing desesperate in what we do and have done but that’ll take a couple of hours to demonstrate.
    Same with the value of Homeopathic MEDICINES (yes that the status according to your dear FDA, one more time do more homework). That’s another couple of hours to explain you the differences, the proven safety and efficacy, the validity of it all over the world, the 200 years history,……
    In another life, may be.

  • dustin dowell

    Think of it from the companies point of view. No company wants to be offensive to anyone, even if it’s over something stupid. Everyone’s a customer. If you ask me, it’s best to keep everything political/military/religious very separate for something as public as an ad campaign. Looks like they were playing it safe to me. Wouldn’t matter what they did. They would have gotten criticized either way from one party or another.

  • Lou

    To stop snoring, sleep on your side, not on your back. Problem solved with no ad campaign necessary.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    I’m aware of this story. It’s considered “uncomfortable” ONLY because muslim organizations and individual muslim people made complaints about the billboard.
    Why muslim organizations don’t want people seeing a woman who’s muslim embracing an American soldier is subject matter for another blog but if it’s not included then it makes this article meaningless because it’s the cause of the rejection.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Though the implication, that we’re at war with anyone because they are muslim, is in extreme poor taste.
    Why the organizations don’t like it is that it shows an American Soldier and a muslim woman (who could be of any nation) getting along.
    I’ve encountered a great many couples where one (either male or female) was of an extraction from a country where islam was the predominant belief system and I don’t see why anyone could think it controversial. The people who protested this poster clearly want people to start thinking it is. They are trying to concoct a division on the individual as well as on the public perceptual level that doesn’t exist.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Correct. It is because MUSLIM organizations have made complaints.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    It was rejected because islamic organizations made complaints about the original billboard previously put up in another state. The motivations behind their complaints is open to debate.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Not consulting muslims makes this offensive? WTF? It’s meant to be a midly amusing advert. Who cares what some tiny and random selection of people think.
    It’s safe to assume they have already presented all the images in the campagn to focus groups that represent the target audience.
    And there is no “race issue” here. Can you tell what part of the world the woman (or her parents) are from? Please explain how you know what race she, or the soldier for that matter, are.
    I would say it represents the successful melting pot that is America.

  • John Deaville

    hello – what i meant to say (and i didn’t want to be specific as I am not a muslim), is that a woman who dresses in a niqab is clearly a muslim with fairly devout beliefs and as such it would firstly be unlikely that she would engage in an open display of affection in public as shown, if they had consulted someone who knew a bit about the muslim culture, they would have pointed that out, and therefore it is a little bit patronising.

    Also the undertone is that it is unusual for mixed race couples to stay together – which again is a bit insulting – particularly using it to to market a bit of commercial tat.

    It’s a nice idea, I’m a great supporter of melting pots and rainbow nations – it is just a bit too blunt and unrealistic

    at least that is what i think, cheers

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Also arab masters with Europian and African females. Currently only african females. Both Mauritania and the Sudan STILL enlsave christian and/or animist African peoples. A Saudi royal brought his slaves with him to a royal event in Briton in the 1950’s and slave markets were seen in Saudi Arabia in 1973. The North African pirates captured and enslaved over a million Europians and the arab slave trade enslaved over 10 million africans.
    Your perspective is a bit overly white anglo saxon on this. But that’s neither a crime nor a personal shortcoming. If you care about contemporary slavery I suggest you look up Christian Solidarity International. They free Sudanese slaves.

  • John Deaville

    i also use the phrase racial issues – which in my definition incorporates religion, not simply geography.

  • juicebox

    Honestly Im going to side with the company who rejected this. The composition is just so awkward. I mean look at the guy’s expression. Its stale and emotionless, as if he was forced into his position. Not a good ad. Sure concept is attention grabbing, , call it what you want. But it was not executed very well.

  • Sara

    I’m a Muslim woman and I don’t have a problem with this at all. NYC raised, so I immersed in diversity and damn proud!
    However, if this ad is alluding to some sort of military-recruiting agenda, then I’m not too sure how I feel. Why can’t it be an average citizen dressing casual?
    I just wish she wasn’t covering the face. This is NOT mandatory in Islam, and 99% of Muslim women don’t dress like that.

  • Kate

    A Soldier shouldn’t be posing for an ad either way. Its definitely against DOD reg.

  • Christian de Rivel

    Thanks, Aleesha. You’ve got it. Campaign is first and foremost about inclusion, tolerance, diversity, equality, love and peace. For some too much to embrace at a time. But time is on our side. We’re just starting the clock.

  • jackson

    Mixing races actually does the exact opposite of what “diversity” is supposed to accomplish. If you have a small brain, diversity seems like a great idea but that’s because you only see the small picture. Once you look further you will see that cultures and races disappear with enough cross breeding. This is not a good thing. This would eventually lead to a “grey” society with no culture.

  • Christian de Rivel

    I really like you raising that issue. For my part I only see good things but may be that’s the optimist in me talking. Just think about “fusion cuisine”, “fusion music”. Each create new layers of diversity for our enchantment. Look at kids from a mixed marriage. They are beautiful. So, don’t panic and let a whole new world opening up to you. I am not for the status quo, nor for the great “cultural divide”. Fusion, Union, Liberation.

  • Kaybee

    It is interesting to note how ‘uncomfortable’ US Americans are with the photo… To the rest of us, it just an okay photo of a handsome looking soldier hugging burkha clad woman with beautiful eyes but ugly nail paint.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    It’s even more interesting to note that it’s islamic organizations who are the complainants. They’re the ones who don’t want this imagery seen by the public.
    It’s not your fault for not realizing that because this post didn’t include that information. But other news articles have.
    Americans have seen this sort of imagery every day for decades so this kind of imagery isn’t controversial in the slightest. That the advertising agency would think people would think it controversial is rather more controversial than people would think that the imagery is. (say that ten times fast)
    In fact I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if when we looked into the specific organization that made the complaint, we may find that it’s been concocted by the ad agency itself in order to create the illusion of controversy. Now THAT would be something to complain about.

  • Peg

    Please show me the video where Bashir said what you quoted him as saying. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

  • Cthulhu0818

    Yeah….and the crap in your head overrules all of them.

  • kevgallacher

    How is this photo “uncomfortable”?
    Just saying it doesn’t make it so. anyone who finds this photograph uncomfortable should really ask themselves how prejudiced they really are.
    Even talking about this photograph in this context and suggesting it to be censored is discrimination straight away.
    The photo was probably intended to cause some controversy, but it is the people who think it is controversial in the first place that are the problem.

  • kevgallacher

    This is not true. Europe has very distinct cultures throughout the continent, yet people have been interbreeding for millennia.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Then include Republicans, Democrats, Labor, Conservative, Libral Democrat, Socialist, Communist, etc etc etc as races too because they’re all chosen belief systems as well.
    Convoluting race and belief systems is demogogery.

  • halimah jedani

    Nigga she aint rockin jus shayla (hijab is dat square one u pin it under yr chin) but she wearin niqaab covering most her face
    Yalla go ax yo gurl
    But u kno they sed they base deez niggaz frum a real life couple n i think itz beautiful awww :-D

  • Retired Capt

    I believe the participation by this solider violates numerous DoD, DHS & Service Directives.

  • Retired Capt

    Because he can!

  • vicky

    Why not put this sign in Iran, Egypt, Syria and in all the middle east and see what reaction you would get. I believe hate would prevail and that is so sad,
    America and Israel are to love and everyone else shows hate. I believe America & Israel would love everyone, but the prince of this world is satan.

  • Annisa Nuriowandari

    Randomly stumbled here, but the reason why it might be disturbing for muslims is because hugging and other affectionate interaction between guy and girl can only be done as husband and wife. When the message uses non-married couple, it only delivers half message of what we’ve been taught. I understand the company means well, but we feel conflicted to see half-conveyed message. If you feel confused why muslims feel disturbed with this, then please ask this. Would you rather respect people who fully commit to their faith or only halfway?

    However, if the reason is because the muslim feel bothered to see affection between guy and girl, which also includes affectionate light hug between husband and wife, then this is actually down to individual preference.

    I personally would find this cute if it’s actually done by husband and wife, esp if they want to deliver message about how “muslim couple” is like. But since the article only mentioned couple, it’s unclear for me. I am fine with light PDA between husband and wife.

  • joe blow

    You’re a moron Vlad, by implying that only nonwhites are Muslims.

  • Amenda W

    Haha, Vlad, only Non Whites are Muslims, that’s funny … I’m whiter then the driven snow and I’m Muslim! and yes I can see why Muslims have a problem with this ad, it’s not about the American solider as her husband, but she is not showing Islam in the right way of how practicing Muslim women want to be seen as, and not as some fake billboard ad since if she was a true practicing Muslim woman she wouldn’t show herself on camera at the photo shoot without even Hijab then wear the niqab Just because someone is Muslim by name, doesn’t make them Muslim by practice. Muslim women wear Niqab not from force, or as a fashion statement as she is doing, Muslim women enjoy wearing Niqab because of Modesty.

    I don’t care what any of you Non Muslims say or Liberalized Muslim women say, most (not all, some Muslim women like Non Muslim women are oppressed and abused in their marriages … look at all the women’s abuse shelters in North America … hmm, non Muslim mainly, I volunteered in one) but I was just in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for one month and met many women there who love wearing their Niqab, (by the way it’s not law to wear Niqab there, I saw plenty of women without Niqab who were Muslim).

    I chose to wear a Niqab even though my husband told me I didn’t have to if I didn’t want to, but I said “Yes, I want to Please!” I wanted to wear it when I came back to Canada but my husband insists I don’t because of to much bigotry against Muslim women in Niqab here and he worries for my safety.

    So before anyone accuses Islam get the facts straight about Islam … you actually may be surprised on what Islam really is God willing, not what the media or fake ads makes it out to be