[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
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.