Thursday, March 4, 2010

Israel and Hasbara Suck at Ads

Advertisers have exactly one job to do: make an association between their product and something awesome that it has almost nothing do with. Wear this deodorant and get the girl, eat at this restaurant and have a stable and even enjoyable relationship with your family, drink this beer and be cool and not the loud shithead you always, always are when you're drunk, etc. This is neither new nor rocket science.

So what does the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy do in their ad? They associate their country with small penises.

Remember in Unforgiven when the bad guy mutilates the prostitute's face because she giggled at how tiny his "pecker" was? That's how awesome people think a small penis is. The CCIJA wins the "How Badly You Can Possibly Fuck Something Up" contest for today.

I don't know if there's any geopolitical significance to the total failure of this ad, since there are terrible ads for minivans, fast food, and other things that aren't apartheid states. Maybe the CCIJA is selling the old image of Israel, with its 400 nukes and 13 billion dollar military budget, as being the scrappy, can-do country surrounded by hostile Arab desert that people thought it was before the Gaza Massacre and the two intifadas. Maybe not. But this "Size Doesn't Matter" ad reminded me of two other Israel-related ads that are about as self-aware as Gary Busey in a sensory deprivation chamber:

First, there's the infamous Cellcom ad, where faceless and soundless Palestinians play soccer with Israeli soldiers. The irony of this ad, as a friend pointed out, is that Israeli soldiers have shot kids who play soccer too close to the wall, and the IDF has set up a number of safely dehumanized "auto-kill zones" near the Gazan border, so Palestinians can play soccer under remote-controlled gun-turrets that can sense their movement. At least this ad, which depicts the other side of the wall as an unknown wilderness, as if the Israelis were Puritan settlers and the Palestinians were Iroquois, gives lie to the claim that Israel is constantly beleagured by it's Arab occupants- rather, the Palestinians are now almost wholly invisible and ignorable to Israelis beside the occasional rocket.

Then there this creeper of an ad. You know those science fiction films that show what the modern advertisement would look like in a dystopian or totalitarian state, like in Children of Men or Blade Runner? This feels like a PSA in 1984. "Report on friends who marry goys." (To Israel's credit, enough Israelis protested so that the ad was taken off the air).

The one unifying thread for all these ads is that anyone with a modicum of awareness can immediately see how terrible they are, and why. The first two requires some moral awareness; the third is just aesthetic- but all are consistent with Norman Finkelstein's description of Israel as a lunatic state. They just don't know what's going on any more on a number of fronts: they had no idea what Hezbollah was up to in 2006, they're amazed that people don't like them after they massacred 1400 Gazans; their recent hit of a mid-level Hamas member in Dubai made G. Gordon Liddy's Watergate meatheads look like actual spies. They're declining on the military front, on the intelligence front, and particularly on the propaganda front.

Advertising is one arm of that latter front. If Israel is doing as poorly as its ads suggest, then it's in bigger trouble than I thought. Just more good news from the front is all.

PS. The response of protestors in Bil'in, the West Bank to the Cellcom ad.

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