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Firm Investigated Over Medvedev-Like Ads

Anti-monopoly officials have opened a probe into an advertising campaign in the Kirov region that used images resembling President Dmitry Medvedev to hawk garden supplies and construction equipment.

The company, Stroibat Trading House, has posted at least six different billboards around Kirov and placed television spots on local channels depicting a man who bears a striking resemblance to the president, although with a slightly receding hairline.

In the billboards, the look-alike is shown in a hard hat, proffering a chain saw, or sprawled out in the grass with a weed whacker — but always in a black suit with a red tie. The campaign's slogan is: "In charge of the tools."

Pictures of the campaign and the video, which features a voice-over mimicking Medvedev's intonation, are available on Stroibat's web site.

The regional branch of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service will examine the campaign on June 17 for a possible violation of advertising laws, which ban companies from using images of state officials, a spokeswoman for the service's Kirov branch, Albina Sozinova, told The Moscow Times.

If found in violation, an entrepreneur linked to Stroibat could face a fine of 4,000 rubles to 20,000 rubles ($130 to $640) and would also have to remove the billboards, Sozinova said, declining to identify the entrepreneur.

Stroibat director Mikhail Malygin said by phone Wednesday that he was the focus of the anti-monopoly service's check. He declined to comment on why the company used an image resembling Medvedev.

Malygin said, however, that the advertising agency that his company hired to design the campaign convinced them that it was not in violation of the law.

A Kremlin spokeswoman said she was unaware of the campaign and could not comment.

The Civil Code bans the public use of people's images without their consent, said Yekaterina Malinina, a lawyer at Yukov, Khrenov & Partners. Advertising laws ban commercials that damage a person's reputation, she said.

While unusual, the probe is not the first time that an ad campaign using famous people has caused a stir.

In February, officials in Omsk hastily removed a poster for a children's theatrical production reading "We Await You, Merry Gnome," ahead of a visit by Medvedev to the Siberian city. Local media reported that officials were concerned that the president —? whose height has been estimated at 162 centimeters in the Russian press — might be offended.

In March 2009, an advertising agency in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg used an image resembling U.S. President Barack Obama to promote a new chocolate-and-vanilla ice cream, drawing the ire of human rights groups. The poster featured a computer-generated caricature of a broadly smiling figure resembling Obama standing in front of the U.S. Congress.

Several years ago, advertising agency Olimp promoted its own services by placing billboards around the Moscow metro depicting a man resembling jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky flying in a Superman suit above the slogan "Super possibilities."

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