Justin Bieber's image has adorned a lot of, lets just say stuff, in his time.
Singing toothbrushes, mint floss, dolls, Adidas NEO clothes, Motorola, small-print laden prepaid credit cards --- you name it, he's been on it. But, even this financially astute 19-year-old may draw the line at being plastered on a billboard backed by a public policy organization lobbying against a rise in the federal minimum wage.
Bieber's face, avec a suitably glum expression, has popped up on a just installed billboard in Los Angeles.
"Why is Justin Bieber so sad?" asks the Employment Policies Institute, the organization behind the ad. "Could it be because 24% of teens who want a job can't find one?"
The billboard's core message reads:
"Teen unemployment makes us all sad. Unfortunately, raising the minimum wage will only make things worse."
The EPI added a disclaimer saying:
"Justin Bieber's image on this billboard does not imply his endorsement of any particular minimum wage policy or an endorsement of the Employment Policies Institute."
That may not be enough.
Using a celebrity's image without permission, to hawk a commercial purpose or to benefit a commercial enterprise is a breach of copyright and can be legally defended under Personality or Publicity Rights which vary from state to state.
But a more controversial note may come from the fact that Employment Policy Institute and the website it links to, MinimumWage.com, is just one of many ideological groups created and owned by Richard Berman.
Described by some organizations and civic ethics groups as a Washington D.C. lobbyist known for his advocacy of corporate interests over public interest, in the past, Berman's firm Berman and Company has been accused of creating fake grass-roots websites and movements claiming to represent the average citizen, but are more likely to be funded by alcoholic beverage, tobacco industry, hotel and restaurant corporations.
FishScam.com, a site dedicated to informing visitors that high mercury levels in fish are not detrimental and SunLightScam.com which claims that tanning beds pose no health risks, are two such websites.
The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. As mentioned in his State of the Union address, President Obama has proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.
Opinion on this among US citizens was recently polled as two-thirds supportive as long as the hike doesn't result in employers laying off workers.
While Bieber may well be a placard carrying anti-minimum wage rise advocate on the quiet, it's more likely being co-opted into this politicized issue is the last thing he or his management team will find helpful at this critical time.