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Rutte doesn’t want to be a poster child for Dance Valley

Dance Valley (UDC) used advertising posters last April depicting Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Tickets for the dance festival could be purchased on an instalment plan – which is why the poster bore the text “Budget deficit? Pay in instalments!”. The poster was also a playful reference to Rutte’s visit to Dance Valley last year. Rutte was also depicted in the Dutch Donald Duck magazine around the same time. The Dutch prime minister’s appearance in the cheerful weekly magazine and on the advertising poster led to questions at the prime minister’s weekly press conference. His inclusion in Donald Duck was not a problem in his view, but the use of his image to promote Dance Valley was unacceptable. Any use of the prime minister’s portrait for commercial purposes would be unwelcome, and would therefore not be permitted. The Government Information Service of the Netherlands sent a letter to UDC. In response, UDC decided to remove the posters. Was it required to do so?
Not necessarily. The use of a person’s portrait in advertising without their permission is generally a no-go area for the average man on the street. Why? The public might think that the person depicted in the photo is endorsing the product being advertised. It violates the person’s right to privacy. But a politician as well-known as Rutte cannot appeal to this construction quite so easily. After all, it will generally be much less likely for the public to believe that he openly endorses the product being advertised. A prime minister officially taking part in a Dance Valley ad? Yeah, right…
Some judges feel that advertising should not evoke any association at all between the person depicted and the product. In my view, that is taking it too far. Advertisers also have the right to freedom of expression, and that right should in any case make it possible for them to refer to current events. Moreover, a public figure like the prime minister should be able to handle a (playful) dig at his person.
Daniël Haije, specialist in reputation management

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