Drivers along S.C. 170 in Okatie have been faced with an ominous sign.
The digital billboard flashes with two shrimp with blackened heads suspended above a single black brushstroke. No words describe the meaning of the sparse image that appears to form a sad face.
A call to the billboard company has solved the mystery.
Adams Outdoor Advertising, the billboard's owner, posted the images in the Charleston, Charlotte and Beaufort areas to raise awareness of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The campaign, which will continue indefinitely, appears to be drawing the attention of curious motorists: Mike Bruns, the company's sales manager in Beaufort, estimated he has received more than 30 calls about the Okatie sign.
The image was designed by one of the company's art directors, who is from New Orleans and works in Florence.
The Atlanta-based company, which has devoted part of its website to the campaign, does not seek to take a political position but wants its ads to convey the sadness of the spill, according to a statement on the site.
A "downloadable conversation poster" available on the site bears the same image as the billboards, in addition to a written message that the spill affects everyone, from Gulf Coast residents to oil company employees to lovers of seafood, wildlife and the beach.
"If nothing else, you are a citizen of this world, and for that reason alone, April 20 was and still is a sad day," the poster reads.
The company regularly reserves space for public service messages, said Todd Turner, art director for the Charleston and Beaufort areas. The company conducted a similar campaign about childhood obesity after its CEO read an article on the subject, Turner said.
"There's no client or anything," Turner said. "There's no goal other than just to get people talking about some of these issues."