Katie Couric's face is showing up in a surprising place: giant billboards in Baghdad.
The New York Times' Tim Arango reported on the unusual scene — on display in over a dozen locations in the city — on Thursday. He explained that Iraq's Electricity Ministry chose an unauthorized image of Couric for a new campaign.
"Ms. Couric beams out at passers-by in an advertisement for a daily news bulletin about electricity that is produced by the government and is shown on 11 satellite television channels," he wrote. The city has struggled with electricity shortages for years, and the billboards were designed to prevent further public protests over outages.
Arango spoke with locals for their reaction, as well as the ministry. Musaab al-Mudarrs, an agency spokesman, told him, “We were looking for a bright and optimistic face that inspires the people to imagine a better future for electricity." He said that designers chose Couric's picture from the Internet, adding that they wanted an image of an American woman. Couric was dressed appropriately and was the right age, al-Mudarrs explained.
For her part, Couric said that she found the billboards "bizarre and slightly amusing." She called into Thursday's "Good Afternoon America" to weigh in on the ads. She said that "Good Morning America" actually broke the story months ago when she was filling in for Robin Roberts. "We thought it was really weird so we got a translator to translate it and they said it's a billboard for the local utility company," she recalled.
Click over to the Times for the full report. Arango wasn't the only journalist who made note of the ads. Prashant Rao, Baghdad bureau chief for Agence France-Presse, said that the billboards were "one of the stranger" things "among the many bizarre sights" he has witnessed in Baghdad.