TIMES SQUARE (PIX11) – Times Square is, of course, home to hundreds of billboards. One them, however, is drawing attention because of its absence from the Crossroads of the World. It’s an advertisement for a snoring prevention product, but it’s by no means putting anyone to sleep, thanks to the controversy it’s creating.
Specifically, the billboard for SnoreStop sprays and pills features an actual U.S. soldier embracing a woman who is fully covered in Muslim garb.
On SnoreStop’s Facebook page, hundreds of people made comments, such as “It’s offensive,” “a slap in the face,” and, from Facebook user Robin Harris: “It is way too close to 9/11 to see a picture of a US serviceman snuggling up to a Muslim woman.” Harris did not “like” SnoreStop. In fact, she wrote that she will never buy the product.
The billboard in question is on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It is nowhere to be seen in Times Square, even though SnoreStop tried to purchase space on a billboard there. The advertiser’s public relations firm told PIX11 News that outdoor advertising company ClearChannel refused to post the billboard in Times Square.
There, PIX11 News got similar reactions from randomly selected New Yorkers who were shown a photo of the Los Angeles area sign.
“If they can run it in California, why can’t they run it here?” asked Bill “Pee Wee” Scheidt. He’s known as the Mayor of Times Square, and has been written about extensively for being a daily presence in the city’s most famous outdoor plaza for 28 of his 90 years. “In New York, you see everything,” he said. “If it’s not here, it’s like it didn’t happen.”
Other residents agreed with him. “You have interracial romance,” said April Brucker. “They would have said the same thing about a black-white [couple on a] billboard years ago. …If they want to sleep together, who am I to judge their union?”
Paul Evans, the soldier in the ad campaign, which is also prominently featured on SnoreStop’s online platforms, is an active duty serviceman from Alabama. PIX11 encountered some tourists from Alabama in Times Square, and their reaction to the ad was in contrast to some of the most biting criticisms on Facebook.
“I think it would be okay [in Times Square],” said Janet Martin, from Birmingham, “because you see everything here.”
The point of the whole ad campaign, according to SnoreStop, is to demonstrate that snoring should be the last thing that keeps anyone — including unconventional couples — apart.
The message seems to resonate with more than half of the hundreds of people who posted comments on SnoreStop’s Facebook page. Many of their statements were similar in tone to a post from Facebook user Max Dean: “I am an American white male maried to a[n] Indonesian Muslim,” he wrote. “I think what you have done is brave and your methods behind it are very true.”
If there is any controversy to be found over the creation of the ad, it may be found in a video interview SnoreStop posted with the female model seen on the billboard. Lexy Panterra appears covered head to toe in Muslim garb. In her interview, however, she is not covered at all, and talks about her ethnic background. While she doesn’t talk specifically about her religious upbringing, she gives no indication that she’s Muslim.
Still, a prominent Muslim organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has been supportive of the ad campaign.
ClearChannel, the company that declined to post the billboard, did not respond to requests from PIX11 News for comment.