If not Barack, maybe Sarah? Company to finally remove Obama billboard, hopes for Palin now

By Jocelyn Noveck, AP
Monday, January 25, 2010

Obama billboard to come down, company wants Palin

NEW YORK — How long does it take to dismantle a billboard?

Close to three weeks, apparently.

The outerwear company that mounted a giant billboard in Times Square showing President Barack Obama in one of its jackets, prompting a call of protest from the White House, says it’s finally removing the offending sign on Wednesday — and it hopes Sarah Palin will agree to take Obama’s place.

Weatherproof hasn’t heard from Palin yet on whether she’ll serve as a model — this time, they’re asking permission — but that’s not even all the news on the Times Square billboard brouhaha front.

The AMC network, seeking to grab a piece of the spotlight for one of its TV shows, has mounted its own, even bigger billboard next to the Weatherproof sign, replacing the president with the main character of “Breaking Bad,” who just happens to be a drug dealer.

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The second billboard features Walt White, a high school chemistry teacher suffering from terminal cancer who turns into a drug kingpin in an attempt to ensure his family’s financial security. The show’s third season premieres March 21, and AMC was looking for an edgy and interesting way to advertise it, said the network’s president, Charlie Collier.

“We saw that first billboard, and we thought, wouldn’t it be great if we were the ones to replace it?” said Collier. But apparently Weatherproof wasn’t in a huge rush to remove it, so the company decided to place its own billboard next to it.

The original billboard — Weatherproof’s, that is — uses an Associated Press news photo from Obama’s trip to China. It features Obama standing by the Great Wall, wearing a Weatherproof jacket, with the tag line: “A Leader in Style.”

Weatherproof had purchased the right to use the photo, but the agreement required the company to seek any necessary clearances for use. A White House lawyer contacted the company on Jan. 8 and asked that they remove the billboard.

On the AMC billboard, Walt White (played by actor Bryan Cranston) is also pictured against the backdrop of the Great Wall of China. But where Obama went bareheaded, Walt White wears a gas mask, “the most critical accouterment in the drug-making biz,” according to a release from AMC.

Instead of “Weatherproof,” it reads, “YouGotNoProof,” a reference to his drug dealing. And instead of “A Leader in Style,” it reads: “A Dealer in Style.”

Weatherproof plans now to continue with a presidential theme, says its president, Freddie Stollmack, using Abraham Lincoln, for example, as a model in one of its ads.

But it really wants Palin, and has even done an internal mock-up of how the former Alaska governor and Republican VP candidate might look hawking the new women’s collection.

“It would just be a little move to the right,” quips Stollmack.

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