Companies to stop 'revenge makeover' ads using ex-governor

AP News
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Posted: Sep 03, 2015 7:37 PM
Companies to stop 'revenge makeover' ads using ex-governor

PHOENIX (AP) — Two online marketing companies that ceased publishing ads depicting former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer as an over-the-hill divorcee who needed a "revenge makeover" could still face legal action from her.

In a written statement, Brewer said that she was "pleased" they would stop running the ads with her image but the removal comes too little too late.

"The damage has been done and for months my image has unlawfully been used by these commercial entities," Brewer said Thursday. "I have been speaking with counsel and exploring my legal rights against these companies for their illegal and abusive behavior and will act accordingly."

Jonathan Markiles, CEO of Content.ad, said his company was unaware that they were running advertising that included her image. Ads are submitted with the understanding that the advertiser owns or is authorized to license the image.

"We were made aware that the images in question were of the ex-governor Brewer yesterday," Markiles said in a statement. "We have never received any notice from the ex-governor or her staff on this matter."

Brewer, however, disputed that assertion.

"They most certainly knew it was me. Without the media exposing their unscrupulous business practice, my image would still be in use by these companies," Brewer said.

The ads were first reported by The Arizona Republic.

The other company, RevContent, also says it will remove the ads. Both companies are platforms for Internet advertisers who submit sponsored content or advertising that looks like news stories. Both say they won't accept any images with Brewer in the future.

Susan Stone Rosenfield, a Phoenix attorney who specializes in intellectual property law, says Brewer could have a strong case for proving a violation of her right of publicity.

"A public figure can't really prevent the use of their image in most circumstances," Rosenfield said. "But one circumstance they can prevent use of their image is for use of advertising if there's a commercial purpose."

Brewer, who is married, was also upset that the ads characterized her as divorced. But proving defamation over that would be extremely difficult, Rosenfield said. Her attorney would have to show there was a deliberate attempt to smear her reputation.

"I think based upon where we are in the year 2015, saying somebody's divorced...most courts are unlikely to find the fact that saying you're divorced is cause for sufficient damage," Rosenfield said.

It was not clear who originally created the ads, which were linked to websites for anti-aging products and services. But the ads are likely to pop up again in cyberspace, Rosenfield said.

"It's like Whac-A-Mole," Rosenfield said. "If you're in this situation like the (former) governor...you really have to keep abreast of what is going on. You need to constantly be checking for violations."

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Follow Terry Tang on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ttangAP