Tuesday, November 12, 2013 , Updated 12:00 p.m., December 13, 2013
UPDATED: Billboard that sparked West Coast controversy comes to Dallas December 14
SnoreStop is "keeping people together," though the company's ad has divided many.
DALLAS A new billboard that sparked controversy on the West Coast will be erected at a currently undisclosed location in Dallas on December 14.
The billboard, an advertisement for snore-reducing throat spray SnoreStop, features a military serviceman and a Muslim female in niqab (a veil that covers everything but the eyes) embracing with the text “#betogether.” The company’s tagline reads, “If we can keep this couple together, we can keep anyone together,” according to a press release.
“With this new campaign, we wanted to celebrate diversity, celebrate equality by showing, bringing into our campaign various couples coming from every corner of life,” said Christian DeRivel, chief branding officer for SnoreStop, in a making-of-the-billboard video.
According to the release, a real couple, veteran Jamie Sutton and his Muslim wife Aleah, inspired the ad’s imagery. (Press representative Darren Shuster confirmed the ad is not a testimonial for their experience with the product.)
Since the billboard went up on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles two weeks ago, consumers and media around the world have weighed in. Comments on The Huffington Post’s coverage of the ad range from “beautiful advertisement” to “dreadful.”
Iraqi Aseel Machi, in an opinion piece for The Guardian, wrote that the billboard, least of all, perpetuates stereotypes.
“SnoreStop did not stop at profiling and stereotyping what a Muslim woman looks like, they placed her in the arms of a U.S. solider,” she wrote. “As an Iraqi, when I see a man dressed in camouflage and matching hat with a Muslim woman in his arms, I think of the atrocities committed against not only men, but women and children, during the brutal years of ‘democracy and liberation’ that ravaged my country on the whims of U.S. and international armed forces.”
[UPDATE: Hind Jarrah, executive director of the Plano-based Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, and Erik Zitnik, an Army member that has served two tours through Afghanistan and Iraq, have differing views of the billboard’s implications.
A former resident of Lebanon and descendant of Palestinian parents, Jarrah called the advertisement “counterproductive” to both sides. She agrees with Machi that, from a Muslim point-of-view, it stereotypes the women who her agency works to protect from issues like domestic violence. From an American standpoint, she believes many will interpret the ad as “sleeping with the enemy.”
“It’s disrespectful for me as an American citizen and also as someone familiar with the culture and tradition of that part of the world,” Jarrah said by phone Wednesday. She added there is no need for a Muslim woman to wear a full niqab anywhere in the world.
“It’s not faith-demanded as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
Zitnik, who returned from his second tour in April, was not offended by the ad and called it “clever.” He disagreed with the thought that the billboard alluded to an American occupation of Middle Eastern territories, stating he never had contact with native women while he was overseas. Furthermore, he likes that the ad confronts Americans with divsersity.
“I think it’s pretty cool, actually,” Zitnik said by phone Wednesday. “There are Muslim service members ... it’s America and you can do what you want as far as religious beliefs.”]
Shuster maintains the motivation for the billboard was genuine – almost “cause related,” he said – and hopes it will get people talking about societal norms.
“We hope people think, 'Do we see couples like this in advertising? Will it create a national dialogue?'” Shuster said.
Dallas will be the fourth city in the U.S. to host the SnoreStop billboard. The campaign rolls out in Houston, Manhattan, Seattle and San Diego before year’s end.
What do you think of it?