George Parker is the perpetrator of adscam.typepad.com. Every week he shares his opinions on the advertising world with PSFK.
If you consider that the basic premise of advertising is to make you buy something you may very well have never considered you need (and don’t give me all that shit about branding and friending and starting conversations) and in far too many instances, you probably can’t afford… Then pushing detergents and burgers is bad enough… But, flogging a war… That’s really tough.
However, it would seem that the US is currently engaged in an ad campaign throughout Afghanistan to encourage the hip-hop loving population of that unfortunate country to support our efforts to bring them democracy and the right to buy two hundred dollar sneakers and drive around in boom box equipped Escalades without getting their hands chopped off. This effort is being managed by an army Lt. Col. McCormick, who you guessed it, used to be a marketing dude at Proctor & Gamble in a previous life. So, can we look forward to a “Please squeeze the poppies” campaign? Apparently not. Instead we get lots of stuff about the Afghan army being the warrior guardians of your brothers and sisters and how they will fight with honor and compassion (You can see them here.) There’s also a campaign featuring babies that talks about the “New Afghanistan” and how these kids are going to grow up and be doctors and drug barons (OK- I just made that last one up to encourage hate mail.) As you would expect, all the kids are male, ‘cos babies don’t look as cute in a burqua. Funnily enough, all the ads are in English… Must be ready for the award shows.
Propaganda is not new, ask Goebbels, and look how he ended up! But why is it that most governments, and particularly the US, do it so badly? For a start, all the Afghan ads were focus grouped… Yeah they fucking focus grouped this stuff in Afghanistan. If the moderator didn’t like the answers, he chopped your hands off (Yeah, I know, I made that up too.) But I’ll bet instead of M&M’s and peanuts, the attendees got hash or something comparably yummie.
Remember Karen Hughes? She was the propaganda Czarina for Bush. Tasked with bringing the message of democracy to the Muslim world, she went to Saudi Arabia and organized meetings with Saudi ladies where she explained that pretty soon America would bring them the freedom buy two hundred dollar sneakers and drive around in boom box equipped Escalades without getting their hands chopped off… They told her to fuck off.
Before Karen, there was Charlotte Beers, ex-Chairman of JWT, and a lovely lady. She had millions of brochures printed up explaining democracy, baseball and apple pie. These were handed out on the streets of various Arab capitals… And yes, they were printed in English.
Even the Romans used propaganda, If it didn’t work, they didn’t chop your hands off… They crucified you. Who needs focus groups?
George Parker is a guest columnist for psfk.com. He is the perpetrator of adscam.typepad.com, which is without doubt, one of the most foul and annoying, piss & vinegar ad blogs on the planet. He is the author of MadScam and his new book, The Ubiquitous Persuaders, which is currently setting the ether ablaze (and which you can order now on Amazon). He will continue to relentlessly promote the crap out of it until you are forced to stab yourself in the eyes with knitting needles.