MANHATTAN — An advertisement featuring a U.S. soldier embracing a Muslim woman has been shot down in Times Square because the image is too controversial, the firm behind the ad claimed.
The ad, for an anti-snoring mouth spray from the company SnoreStop, shows a uniformed soldier hugging a woman wearing a niqab alongside the tag line "SnoreStop: keeping you together" and the Twitter hashtag #betogether.
The billboard is part of a nationwide promotion for the company's product, with the motto, "If we can keep this couple together, we can keep anyone together."
SnoreStop officials said they had a phone conversation on Tuesday with reps from Clear Channel Communications in a bid to place the ad on one of its Times Square billboards, but were told they would not be allowed to do so "because of its 'sensitive nature' and 'uncomfortable imagery,'" officials said in a press statement Friday morning.
"They flat out rejected it," Darren Shuster, a spokesman with Pop Culture Public Relations, which is representing SnoreStop, told DNAinfo.com New York on Friday. He did not share the name of the Clear Channel rep he said he spoke to.
Clear Channel did not return calls and emails seeking comment.
The same ad went on display in Los Angeles earlier this month and attracted a flurry of media attention, and the ad is scheduled to go on display in Chicago in two weeks, SnoreStop officials said.
The company acknowledged in the statement that "an American military figure and a Muslim woman holding each other is bound to raise eyebrows."
But SnoreStop chief branding officer Christian de Rivel said there was no reason to ban the ad.
"There is no nudity or bigotry or hostility in our #betogether campaign. In fact, we are specifically and aggressively promoting diversity, equality and harmony."
Shuster said SnoreStop submitted the ad to Clear Channel last week, but the media conglomerate called to reject it earlier this week.
Shuster added that his company had not specified an exact location for the billboard but was inquiring generally about getting one in Times Square. Clear Channel owns "a handful" of the billboards in Times Square, a spokeswoman for the Times Square Alliance said.
Attempts to get the advertisement on city billboards owned by other media companies have not yet been successful, the company noted.
"They're trying, but not [getting] a lot of callbacks," Shuster told DNAinfo, adding that the incident was not meant to be a public-relations stunt. "We're getting some PR from this, but we really want to put this in Times Square, put it on the global stage there. Los Angeles is great, but there's nothing like New York City."