Friday, October 16, 2015

Palestinians Out, Hi-tech In: How to Market Israel for Young Americans

Neta Alexander,

Stop talking about the occupation and Holocaust. This is the advice that ad executive David Sable has for the State of Israel if it wants to improve its image in the world.

Sable image from article
Young and Rubicam’s CEO David Sable – who can come off like an intriguing combination of the eccentric advertising exec Bert Cooper from “Mad Men” and former Israeli President Shimon Peres – is not your typical business mogul. ...
In a recent presentation, Sable emphasized that the ultimate answer to Israel’s detractors must be based on three simple words: “War is hell.” Israeli public diplomacy, he says, sustained serious damage in Operation Protective Edge, in 2014, when Palestinian organizations flooded the social networks with images of extensive death and destruction in the Gaza Strip.
“Israeli spokespeople in the U.S. talk about how the IDF is the most moral and ethical in the world,” Sable notes angrily. “And no matter what question I ask you, the answer is that our army is most moral and ethical in the world. ‘Excuse me, Mr. Ambassador, your army has acknowledged the fact that your missile killed X number of Arab children on the beach.’ ‘Our army is the most moral and ethical in the world.’ No, that’s the wrong answer. The right answer is, ‘War is hell, we don’t want to be at war, and people get killed inadvertently in war.’ It’s okay to say that it’s just as moral as the American army. You can say: ‘We have the same issues that the U.S. has when they fight in this situation.’ Instead, our answer is, ‘We are the most moral army in the world.’ We are incredibly arrogant.
“Just accept the reality – and answer the reality. If I go to campus and say ‘War is hell, it’s bad,’ if I go up to Palestinians with their images of war and say, ‘That pains me, it hurts me, I cry for it’ – that changes the conversation completely. Instead of me standing on the other side saying, ‘We’re the most moral army in the world and you’re a bunch of terrorists.’ That doesn’t work.”
But with efforts at “pinkwashing” Israel continuing, and with ads showing Israeli women sunning themselves in bikinis on the beach and young Israelis partying in nightclubs, it’s harder to sell the idea that war is hell.
“No, I see it the other way around. If I say ‘war is hell,’ and then I show the picture of Tel Aviv, people understand that. What people don’t get is when you go the other way: It’s this party town and you are deliberately, purposefully, not caring about killing other people. That’s when people get crazy. At the end of the day, we don’t give people reason to believe us enough. We get arrogant, and we can’t be arrogant. When Bibi went to the UN, can you imagine that instead of mentioning all his relatives killed in the Holocaust, he’d ripped up his speech and said, ‘You know what? I had a speech prepared. But here’s the bottom line: We want peace, here’s my hand, somebody take my hand.’ Can you imagine what would have happened? We’ll never know, because it will never happen. Because we’re just too arrogant. We have to get over that.”

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