Manipulative wartime ads wax, then wane [p. 3]

By TOM HOPE
August 20, 2006 00:34
2 minute read.

One can just picture it, vividly, realistically: elite teams of thought-manipulating, emotion-playing copywriters, sitting around tables in their suave, hip outfits in high-rise office buildings in Tel Aviv on July 12, as the war erupts, thinking how they can best take advantage of the conflagration to come, with all the fear, anger, patriotism and myriad other feelings it would evoke. The result: For the duration of the conflict, a non-stop spate of TV ads could be seen on the box, "embracing northern Israelis" and channeling our righteous anger against that bearded, turbaned face we were all on the verge of burning in effigy, Hassan Nasrallah. And all the while, of course, subtly luring customers to buy the plugged products. One commercial, promoting a fitness club, promised us the pleasure of knocking out Nasrallah by punching his face up, if we would only enter their Web site. Another ad, for doors this time, bellowed at Nasrallah, whose home's door is shown shaking from an air strike, that we "know he's sweating." A different sort of ad tempted us to use various mobile phone services while at the same time "strengthening the North and the soldiers." Such ads were not as ridiculously indecent as the Nasrallah ones, and while certain doubt could be cast on the kind-heartedness of many, it should be mentioned that the caring of some was very evident and admirable. But now, however, all of a sudden, these ads have vanished from the screen. After the flood of patriotism abated, and now that this war is being portrayed by the media less as a noble and courageous endeavor and more like a bloody blunder, and precisely when the northerners need a great deal of assistance to recover and rebuild their lives, the rich and powerful businessmen are silent and their commercials are ancient history. The copywriters in their hip threads are no fools. The flood of patriotism, fear, unity and anger carried with it a river of cash. Rubble and weeping look and sound bad, but the thud and the fire of the guns are always riveting. Nasrallah, who deserves much more than a punch in the face for the havoc he has wreaked, never belonged in the ads in the first place. It was a cheap play on our fury, for it did what these ads do best - tie our emotions to the products. The subliminal catharsis some of us received from watching Nasrallah's face covered with blood and scars, was seconds later tied in the most unlikely yet ingenious way to the joys of fitness. The cell phone companies' "benevolence" and perceived kindness were tied to their services. But now that there are no more such dispositions and mind-sets to play on, the North is no longer worth "embracing." On second thought, maybe we'll soon see Olmert's and Peretz's faces being punched up on the box?


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