Photoshopped billboard

A widely circulated photo of an Esurance billboard was photoshopped, the company said. The photo originated on Instagram.

A picture of an Esurance billboard that was widely circulated on Twitter this week with what appeared to be a crude reference was photoshopped, a company spokesperson and the source of the photo said.

The billboard near the Ogilvie Transportation Center, at Canal and Randolph streets, featured the insurance company's name and appeared to read “cover your home in a dick.” But a company spokesman said the photo was doctored and emailed RedEye a photo of what he says the billboard read all along: "cover your home in a click."

Danny Miller, spokesman for the company, said by email Thursday that all the billboards had been taken down July 24, and the photo in question was “clearly photoshopped.”  

When reached for comment Thursday, Thorne Brandt – whose Instagram account was the source of the original photo – admitted it was a doctored photo he made as a joke.

Brandt, who said in an email he had been away from social media for a few days, said the doctored photo – which took about 30 seconds to alter – was the last thing he posted before bed Tuesday night. He said he didn’t notice the picture was getting so much attention until co-workers began sharing articles about the photo on social media.

“My initial reaction was to be upset for not receiving credit, but then I realized that it was most likely not a malicious or plagiaristic act,” he said in an email response.

He added that it was “unsettling” people found it so amusing and that some were even demanding an apology from Esurance. He also was surprised media outlets reported on the photo.

“After you Photoshop something and have it end up [in the media], the slightest trust that you still had in the media is now lost,” he said.

The photo gained attention on social media after Brandt's pal Sharlene King (@typodactyl) shared it on Wednesday thinking it was real, and received more than 1,500 retweets. Reached by phone Thursday, King said she found the photo on Brandt’s Instagram account and shared it for fun, chiding the official Esurance twitter account (@esurance) that it should be careful with its “kerning” – a typographical term for the spacing between letters. 

“I guess I should have known with the Internet, everyone loves a good dick joke,” she said of the attention the tweet received. Several media outlets, including sports blog Deadspin and RedEye, called attention to the tweet.

Esurance’s official Twitter account on Wednesday responded to King’s tweet, saying “all affected” billboards have been removed. However, Miller said the tweet was referencing a separate issue. That had to do with concerns the sign at Randolph and Canal as well as four others in Chicago could be read “differently” if viewed from afar. That prompted the company to remove all five signs in late July. 

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