blog | “Playing with the animals in the zoo…”

[26/07 – Cellcom actually managed to out-do themselves, two weeks after the original ad. Check it out]

[12/07 – I’ve put in some more links, thoughts and corrections suggested by readers, see below]

So here’s a gem. A new advert by McCann-Erricsson group (scroll below for contact details) tries to sell a new sports  service for Israel’s largest cellphone company, Cellcom. Here is its idea as to how:

I can post a translation if you like, but it’s not very necessary – maybe just the tagline, “What is it we all want? Just a little fun, that’s all.” Aside from being a great contender for the “creepiest ads of all time“, this one minute ad says a lot about how mainstream Israel likes to see itself and the Palestinians:

  • Our soldiers are all decent, sporty chaps, no hate – strictly business
  • The wall is a normal part of the political landscape – either neutral or very positive; even the protest graffiti that adorns much of the real Wall had been replaced in this video with typical army doodles (i.e. “brigade C was here”).
  • Palestinians don’t exist. We mean, they do, but we don’t know how they look like. And for sure they don’t have good looking soldier girls like we do. Besides, showing Palestinians would turn a lot of people off the ad.
  • The invisible, too-terrible-to-show-on-prime-time Palestinians, are perfectly happy to play with the people who locked them up (note how the wall bends, creating the impression of a tiny pen instead of a gargantuan project choking up an entire country.)  We so much so believe they should be happy to play with us that when they don’t return the ball (their ball), we are in every right to indignantly shout “Nu?!” (“Well?!”)

Cellcom has almost half the Israeli population (including yours truly) among its costumers. It has had other iffy anecdotes, like being managed by a former head of the Shin Bet (Ami Ayalon Yaakov Peri – thanks, Amy)  for some a few years.  Their investor relations office in Tel Aviv (GMT +2, Sunday to Thursday) can be reached here on the phone or here by email. Be polite. I’m linking their investor relations site because I think a call there will spook them more than just calling customer support. A petition by customers coming soon, though.

The producers of the ad, McCann-Erickson can be reached here in NY:

McCann Erickson New York

622 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10017
646.865.2000

You can find a lot more contact details on their website by clicking on Contact Us (sorry – it’s Flash, so no direct link). The website states their motto is “Truth well told”,  and that they value ethics and good relations – I’m sure they’ll appreciate a friendly call.

A coupla more notes – 12/07:

  • Reader G. notes that you can see the Banksi Girl With Baloons briefly in one of the frames – point taken, although I still stand by that any obvious, readable protests against the wall have been smudged out.
  • The ad presents a key notion about the wall for the Israeli public – that it’s a border. As the Labor (!) party slogan a few years ago used to say, “We’re over here and they’re over there.” This, of course, is not reality – the wall runs miles deep into what was supposed to have been Palestinian territory, and Israelis still have completely free access to and control of either side of it.
  • In fact, one of the comments of the Facebook group against the ad wryly notes that as the concrete wall itself is just the kernel of a 60-meters-wide “sterile zone” – that anyone can be shot in without warning – the soldiers may well be playing with another patrol on the other side of the wall. The Facebook protest group is   here
  • Amy Kaufmann has put up one of his brilliant vignettes, imagining what the discarded ads must’ve looking like.

The more I think about this ad, from an activist perspective, the sadder it seems. Ads aimed at the general market, like this one, are invaluable time capsules, representing  public mood much more faithfully than any art. They can’t afford to affront and lose a single customer – and thus they document not just what a society really is, but what it really thinks itself to be, which can be just as decisive as facts and figures.

From that perspective, this ad is the peak of a two-decade long process of alienation of the 1967 Palestinians from the mainstream of Israeli public. There were probably least borders in that sense in the 1980’s; Ordinary Palestinians – not just politicians or terrorists – appeared fairly often in Israeli media. Most of this was reinforcing Israeli feelings of colonialist superiority , of course, although occasionally brilliant satire made it through – the Pale Scout (hagashash ha-hiver) troupe had a fantastic sketch of a cowardly Israeli bourgeois volunteering to guard at a checkpoint, only to find the other guards were Palestinian day-laborers, paid by their boss to volunteer on his behalf.

In the 1990’s, with the segregation that came with the Oslo accords, ordinary Palestinians vanished from the screen and were replaced by Fatah politicians. Again, this satire was mostly pro-Israeli, but at least they were there . A notable instance is Yassir Arafat, who, by the good services of a vicious Israeli version of Spitting Image, was transformed from menacing adversary and cunning bargainer to a much loved, familiar figure – I remember kids dressing up as Arafat in Purim for a year or two.

Israeli satire all but died out over the last few years, and now this ad comes to faithfully demonstrate the degree to which Israelis can indulge the idea of West Bankers. What’s even sadder, is that this is as much peaceful interaction with ordinary West Bankers that Israelis can stomach: Invisible, subservient, dependent on the good will of their masters (note how much time the ball spends on which side), and, of course, safely tucked up behind a huge, huge, wall.

22 Comments

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22 responses to “blog | “Playing with the animals in the zoo…”

  1. Pingback: Promised Land » Blog Archive » Separation Wall stars in new Israeli commercial

  2. Excellent post!
    (By the way, I think it was Yakov Peri who headed Cellcom, not Ayalon).

  3. Karen

    A truly disgusting ad which unfortunately proves how low Israeli standards have sunk and just how utterly disconnected we are from reality.

    People can also complain directly to the Second Broadcasting Authority, which I believe is responsible for approving ads.

    http://www.rashut2.org.il/public_complain.asp

  4. goy

    God, it is creepy…thanks for this!

  5. g.

    Eh, well, since I watched the ad and read through the piece I’d just like to note that besides the army unit tagging there’s also a Banksy hidden there

  6. Liat

    Creepy alright – it is for sure not the grisly reality we all know that the Israelis have created to the peaceful fun loving Palestinians. … We all know it is not all that pretty and easy: our soldiers are not all fit, fun and loving. In fact – they want to be in the army for the rest of their lives holding guns and looking for some Palestinian children to shoot at (and if they are all in school studying with their mums – Israeli soldiers get even more excited – because here is a chance to have 2 birds in one bullet); The Israeli girls are not pretty and enjoy searching Palestinian men in checkpoints. In fact this is what turns them on ….
    And please – lets’ not forget – the underdog Palestinians. how can we even think they have any interest of playing soccer with the people who lock them in just for fun in order to slowly watch them suffocate and get even more turned on by it….
    We all know this. The media makes sure we know it. But as disgusted I am from all these “true realities” – it was refreshing to get some balance. Some YING YANG.
    I, quite frankly, liked the advertisement.
    It gave me some balance: some positive lies to balance the negatives ones.
    WHY NOT?

  7. Leehee

    It’s very well analyzed, and I second every word. I think that you should’ve also mentioned the fact that chauvinism is also not missing from this ad. As the male soldiers are running, jumping and kicking, the female ones are standing, clapping and cheering, reinforcing gender roles binary.

  8. Karen

    “Ads aimed at the general market, like this one, are invaluable time capsules, representing public mood much more faithfully than any art. They can’t afford to affront and lose a single customer ”

    I think that Cellcom are actually the biggest cellular company in the Arab Israeli sector… Wonder whether Mossawa etc have seen this

  9. Pingback: Promised Land » Blog Archive » Occupation is fun!

  10. Pingback: Close Encounters of the Levantine Kind – Part 3 « Half & Half

  11. Hi, just translated a few citations from your text into my blog. Thanks for the post.

  12. Jubilation1

    Yup,
    Dimi sigh
    it is an ad
    what do you want them to show,
    soldiers kicking Arabs?
    What would you say then?

  13. Pingback: Promised Land » Blog Archive » The Cellcom commercial (update)

  14. Fun and Fences: The ethics and esthetics of neighborliness in a Midrash and Israeli commercial – Shalom Hartman Institute scholar Yair Lipshitz weighs in on the ad – http://www.hartman.org.il/Opinion_C_View_Eng.asp?Article_Id=370

  15. Eran

    אני חושב שההתרעמות מעט מוגזמת,

    הפרסומת אכן בעייתית במספר רבדים – היא מניחה כי החומה היא עובדה ואינה דנה במוסריות של החומה

    יש לי תחושה שמי שמתנגד לפרסומת הזו, שוכח כי רוב הישראלים (ועצוב שכך המצב) לא בכלל מתפנים לדיון על מוסריות החומה

    בשביל רבים ורעים אצלנו הפלסטנאים מייצגים את האחר, הרע והמפלצתי שמטרת קיומו היא השמדת ישראל

    לפני שבכלל מדברים עם אנשים כאלה על מוסריות החומה, הם צריכים להבין שבצד השני שלה יש אנשים כמוהם, שבסך הכל רוצים לחיות, לגדל את ילדיהם בכבוד (וכמובן שחיים כאלה יכולים להתקיים אך ורק ללא הכיבוש הישראלי

    כשצפיתי בפרסומת בפעם הראשונה ציפיתי למשהו מאד מזעזע – ולא הגיע

    שוב אציין כי הפרסומות אינה טובה ומאד בעייתית

    אולם, לא הרגשתי שהיא מציגה את הפלסטינאים כחיות בגן חיות, זוהי רק פרשנות , אולי לגיטימית, אבל פרשנות

    אני מניח שישראלים רבים , בעיקר כאלה שאינם מחזיקים בדעות פרוגרסיביות כמו מבקרי הבלוג, יגידו כי הפלסטינאים אינם מוצגים כחיות בפרסומת זו

    כוידאו אפשר לתת לו פרשנויות רבות – ואחת מהן יכולה להיות שיש פרטנר מאחורי החומה

    זה אולי מובן מאליו לאקטיביסטים, אבל לצערי לא מובן מאליו לרוב מדינת ישראל

    אולי צריך לפעול בצעדים קטנים
    ואחרי שהעם שלנו יבין שיש אנשים מאחורי הגדר, הוא אולי גם יבין שהגדר לא יכולה להשאר

    ערן

  16. Shlo

    You are perfectly right by mentioning the “invaluable time capsule”. Marketing can tell a lot about a culture´s self concept, revealing an ideal picture how people wish to be perceived by others.

    Here´s another video that may serve as an antidote. These guys do a much better job than selling cellphones! :-)

    HATTLER live! Assalamu Alaikum
    high definition http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrcJI3RxwZA&fmt=22
    medium quality http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrcJI3RxwZA&fmt=18

    Music video nominated for the 2009 “Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics”

    PoliticsOnline and the World eDemocracy Forum announced the list for nominations of the 2009 “Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics”. 26 initiatives are nominated. They all have political impact and make innovative use of the internet.

    One of the nominees is Hellmut Hattler, a world-renowned bass guitarist from Germany (Kraan, Tab Two, Hattler). With his online campaign, only on YouTube, Hellmut Hattler draws attention towards the occupation of Palestine – and gets positive feedback from all over the world.

    Your vote for HATTLER
    http://www.politicsonline.com/content/main/specialreports/2009/top10_2009/vote.asp

  17. Pingback: Israeli Ad Makes Light of Separation Barrier - The Lede Blog - NYTimes.com

  18. Pingback: blog | Don’t say Al-Quds, say Yerushalaim « Dimi’s notes

  19. Hippiewitchdoctor

    McCann Erickson WorldGroup’s slogan is:
    The Truth Well Told.

    Here’s a well told, sad and truthful version about the world’s largest prison.

  20. Pingback: blog | What’s worse than a Cellcom ad? « Dimi’s notes

  21. Pingback: Close Encounters of the Levantine Kind – Part 3 – Half & Half

  22. Hello there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this
    site? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers
    and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

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