Salonpas Offers Obama Pain Relief in Web Ads

Here Are Some Spots That Could Use a Presidential Pardon

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- It's been a hard year for Barack Obama, but the folks at Hisamitsu Americas, marketers of Salonpas analgesic patches, feel his pain. So they've created two new video ads featuring "Fauxbama" Sid Milburn, who, like the president, hails from Hawaii (unless somehow the birthers are right).

The videos, posted on YouTube and shot for Hisamitsu in Hawaii, feature Mr. Milburn applying patches to address pain in the neck after getting a phone call from John Boehner (who, according to an unnamed aide, sounds like he's been crying), and another in which he opens a package of tea bags that have been sent to him.

Salonpas, which is big in Japan, has been venturing this year to get much bigger in the U.S. The brand got its first foothold 60 years ago in Hawaii. But it's not clear Mr. Obama is an actual user. Nor did Hisamitsu ask for permission from the White House, though Robert Kay of Pac-Tech communications, who produced the videos, said in an e-mail: "We're not using his likeness -- just a look alike. We've taken a very respectful tone, even if we are pushing the boundaries a bit."

Outerwear marketer Waterproof ran afoul of the White House last year after putting up a billboard in Times Square showing an actual photo of Mr. Obama wearing what the company said was one of its jackets.

Technically, celebrities have cause for action against marketers who use look-alikes (or sound-alikes) to imply an endorsement, said Cincinnati attorney Jack Greiner, who specializes in social-media law. Bette Midler and Tom Waits (remarkably enough) are among celebrities who've successfully challenged such ads in court. But commercial parody, which at least one of the ads for Salonpas appears to be, has a stronger First Amendment defense, Mr. Greiner said, should it ever come to that.

The other problem: Salonpas doesn't make a patch that goes where some people believe Mr. Obama is hurting following his tax-cut deal with Republicans.



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