U.S. Gov't Suspends "Honest, We Don't Treat Muslims Like Dirt" Ad Campaign
Fails to explain why detaining Middle Eastern immigrants (many of them Muslims) for complying with ominous new registration program does not constitute treating people like dirt
From yesterday's Wall Street Journal ("U.S. Suspends TV Ad Campaign Aimed at Winning Over Muslims"):
The U.S. government is abandoning a high-profile television campaign, backed by President Bush and aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the world's Muslim and Arab populations, after meeting stiff resistance from some crucial allied nations.The much-ballyhooed advertising drive, known as "Shared Values," was... the most controversial element of an effort to promote a positive image of the U.S. in parts of the globe where American interests and culture are frequently under attack.What, you mean getting people in other countries to like your government despite its actions (like the recent detainments or Bush's determination to start a war with Iraq "in the name of peace") isn't just a matter of coming up with the right marketing campaign?
The initial series of television spots had its debut in October and was broadcast for five weeks in several countries, including Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation. They feature five Muslims who live in the U.S.: a baker, a journalism student, a schoolteacher, a paramedic and a public official. In documentary-style footage created by McCann-Erickson Worldgroup, a unit of Interpublic Group, each describes a social tolerance of his or her background and faith. "I have co-workers who are Jewish, who are Christian, Catholic, Hindu even," says Farooq Muhammad, clad in his New York paramedic uniform, in one spot. "I have never gotten disrespect because I am a Muslim."
The effort immediately sparked controversy. Egypt informally warned U.S. officials that it wouldn't put messages from other governments on its airwaves. Cairo's ambassador didn't return calls seeking comment Wednesday. The Lebanese ambassador to the U.S., Farid Abboud, said, "We shouldn't run messages on behalf of other governments." A spokesman for the Jordanian embassy said the spots didn't run in Jordan, which has three channels, all government-owned.
...Explaining the decision to suspend the ads, State Department officials said the U.S. recently decided to emphasize public relations rather than TV and print ads in Muslim countries with substantial anti-American sentiment. "The television, print and radio spots are down right now," one official said. "We are looking at where we are going next with the effort."
State Department officials noted that the campaign can in theory continue until the funds run out. But department officials are currently working with McCann-Erickson to determine what impact -- if any -- the campaign may have had and to figure out what form the future efforts will take. One idea is to begin moving the ads into other countries where there are large numbers of Muslims, including the Philippines, Morocco and some of the former Soviet republics. ...In addition to the criticism leveled by some Muslim nations, the spots were faulted at home, too. "The ads were extremely poor," says Youssef Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank based in New York. "It was like this was the 1930s and the government was running commercials showing happy blacks in America. It is the policy itself we have to explain. You have to grab the bull by the horn, and the bull is 'Hey, here's our policy and there are good reasons for it,' instead of saying, 'Gee, there are a lot of happy Muslim people here.' "
"The real question on the 'Shared Values' campaign is whether it does more good than harm," says Steve Hayden, vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, a McCann rival and unit of WPP Group PLC. "My premise was that any effort to address ordinary people that have been ignored too long is worthy. But Islamic opinion is influenced more by what the U.S. does than anything it can say."