Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hezbollah has a fucking ad agency (why don't we ask them to do our Arab advertising?)

Winning Hearts and Minds
The new war in Lebanon is a propaganda battle—and Hizbullah is coming out on top. Some tips from a master.
By Kevin Peraino (from Newsweek)


Oct. 2, 2006 issue - It's a cliché to say that Islamists are skilled at winning Mideast hearts and minds. But even some Israeli officials acknowledge that they're being outmaneuvered by Hizbullah in the ongoing battle for international public opinion. Remember those made in the u.s.a. banners that sprouted everywhere amid the rubble of southern Lebanon right after this summer's fighting? That was just the opening salvo—and some Israelis worry that they're still not fighting back. "We're simply not there," says one senior Israeli security official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the record. "And [Hizbullah leader Hassan] Nasrallah is extremely adept."

Part of the Islamists' new strategy: a $100,000 advertising blitz called "Divine Victory," featuring more than 600 billboards around Beirut and southern Lebanon touting Hizbullah's exploits during the 34-day war. (Cleverly, the slogan is almost a literal translation of Nasrallah's last name.) The panels line the road to Beirut from the city's international airport, and the new buy includes slogans like "America and its tools have been defeated"—in English. Last week the group expanded the campaign, adding dozens more billboards, and Nasrallah himself made an appearance at a massive rally in Beirut, standing in front of one.

Who are the masterminds behind all this? Meet Idea Creation, a Beirut ad agency and design firm that works for both the Islamists and a handful of other Lebanese clients. Thirty-year-old Mohammad Kawtharani, the company's wiry and affable creative director, says he's never met Nasrallah; the group works from a few broad guidelines the leader suggests and then submits them for approval. A former philosophy and architecture student, Kawtharani says he sympathizes with Hizbullah but doesn't consider himself a member. On the eve of the Beirut rally, NEWSWEEK spoke with Kawtharani about his campaign strategy. He offered a few tips:

Lower your "message density": Islamist propaganda was once known for its densely impenetrable Arabic, peppered with quotes from the Qur'an. But Kawtharani says that in this campaign, Hizbullah has made an effort to get "straight to the point" with its slogans. The international public "expects a clear and single message," he says. "That's the language of the media these days." So Hizbullah settled on the simple and catchy "Divine Victory" slogan, and repeated it over and over.

Speak in the lingua franca: One of the striking things about Hizbullah's campaign is that many of the billboards around Lebanon are in English, crafted explicitly for foreign TV cameras. Some of Hizbullah's six-man creative team, like Kawtharani himself, studied at the American University of Beirut and are fluent enough to employ a more subtly effective English idiom—the MADE IN THE U.S.A. banners, for example.

Employ irony: Some of Hizbullah's most common ads use a tactic that Kawtharani calls sending "double messages." One example: a red banner featuring the slogan extremely accurate targets! juxtaposed against the rubble of Beirut's southern suburbs. "In advertising, irony is part of the modern style," says Kawtharani. "The audience will receive the double message."

Sanitize the images: Conventional wisdom holds that Hizbullah gained sympathy throughout the war by circulating graphic images of Lebanon's dead, often in e-mail chain letters. But now that the war is over, says Kawtharani, publicizing what he calls the "more aggressive" visuals can be counterproductive. Some of Hizbullah's ads thus feature symbolic images of the killing—bodies wrapped in blankets, for instance—but avoid the most horrific scenes. The West already considers Hizbullah a "bloody party," Kawtharani acknowledges. Continuing to publicize carnage would reinforce this image, especially among foreign audiences.

Stay out of the firing line: Everybody knows advertising can be a cutthroat business. But in wartime, Hizbullah's ad team literally had to dodge bullets to get their message across. Kawtharani says two of his designers were killed during the war. His original headquarters in an office building in Beirut's predominantly Shia southern suburbs was leveled by an Israeli airstrike. "It used to be 10 floors," says Kawtharani. "Now it's about one-and-a-half floors." Still, the ad man tried to turn the attacks to his advantage. Nearby, one of Kawtharani's new banners now flutters in the wind.

1 Comments:

At 9/26/2006 10:37 AM, Blogger steve said...

nice one adam. I'll do a link if I may to my blog.

I was there sunday. yeah. as if the israelis weren't already looking a bunch of rather unpleasant c**ts anyway - along with most other political groupings in the region for not backing the ceasefire earlier- Kawtharani and Hezbollah did I very good job!

On a point of fact, there were 4 giant posters behind the Nasrallah stage. Each one was themed with a different element; fire for the rockets, earth was, I think, an israeli tank ablaze, air a drone getting shot down and water the patrol boat getting hit...

Anyway, check it out on my site if your eyes are good.

Oh, and those billboards on the way to the airport are laminated plastic backlit illuminated ones.... not your plain old paper things.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home