Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bushco Summons Big Guns In Iraq ~ Madison Avenue

Touchingly American: In PR & Sales Campaigns We Trust ~ Who Wouldn't Be Moved?

To borrow a familiar old-school meme from one of the original hotbeds of avaricious American consumer-bot-ism, gag me with a spoon!

The Pentagon, which we trust to direct the expenditure of blood & treasure in the waging of noble & righteous wars on every part of the world which may not agree that resource extraction for our benefit is the most noble & pressing cause ever, apparently commissioned a study by expert marketers in order to obtain advice on how to sell the failed war in Iraq to Iraqis! When I first saw the blurb under the headline, I thought it must be some deliciously snide & snarky editorial commentary, a joke:

"TODAY'S HIGHLIGHTS: In the advertising world, brand identity is everything. Volvo means safety. Colgate means clean. IPod means cool. But since the U.S. military invaded Iraq in 2003, its "show of force" brand has proved to have limited appeal to Iraqi consumers, according to a recent study commissioned.
But reading further, the price tag alone convinces your Demon that they're deadly serious.

American taxpayers have footed a $400,000 bill to get advice from Madison Avenue because Bushco still doesn't understand why the project there is going so dismally & irretrieveably south, & got sparkling drops of murmured wisdom from the marketing gurus like this in return:

"[The study] concluded that the 'force' brand, which the United States peddled for the first few years of the occupation, was doomed from the start and lost ground to enemies' competing brands.
Sez the WaPo: "While not abandoning the more aggressive elements of warfare, the report suggested, a more attractive brand for the Iraqi people might have been 'We will help you.' That is what President Bush's new Iraq strategy is striving for as it focuses on establishing a protective U.S. troop presence in Baghdad neighborhoods, training Iraq's security forces, and encouraging the central and local governments to take the lead in making things better."

We seriously doubt that, at this late date, the Iraqis can be convinced by a mere PR campaign that America is there to do anything but "help" them establish permanent bases in the interest of "helping" them liberate the oil from underneath their sands, but *ahem* you go, Doodz.
The price tag was also well worth it to obtain doses of ingenious old-fashioned American salesmanship like these:

"For the U.S. military and U.S. officials, understanding the target customer culture is equally critical.

'[Study co-author] Helmus recommends expanding military training to include shaping and branding concepts such as cultural awareness, and the study underscores the perils of failing to understand your consumer.

"'Certain things do not translate well,' the study warned. 'Danger lies behind assumptions of similarity.' A gesture Bush made during his 2005 inaugural parade -- the University of Texas 'hook 'em horns' salute with raised index and pinkie fingers -- stands for the 'sign of the devil' in some cultures and an indication of marital infidelity in others. A leaflet dropped to intimidate Iraqi insurgents, the study noted, 'also reached noncombatants' and 'gave everyone who picked it up the 'evil eye.' "

'Words cause similar cultural confusion,' it said. The Arabic word 'jihad,' for example, has religious connotations for Muslims; its repeated use to connote terrorism is insulting and also perversely lends legitimacy to violent acts.

"Schattle acknowledged that much of what works for consumer advertising in the United States might not translate well in Baghdad. But urban ops, he said, is all about experimenting and adapting to new realities.

"'We want to look at new concepts, new business practices, to see if there are things that we can learn,' he said. Since his office was established after the U.S. military issued a new doctrine for urban warfare in 2002, 'we've been collecting lessons learned from all over the world,' he said. 'Not just Iraq and Afghanistan, but places like the Philippines and South America. Wherever there have been fights, we went out and looked at them.'

"The challenge for the advertising study, he said, was to find 'something we can learn from Madison Avenue or from the marketers, the best in the world, that might help us when we're trying to deliver a message about what democracy is.'
(Democracy IS a commodity bought & sold on the open market, doncha know? Where have you been?)

"In Iraq, Schattle said, the 'urban population is the center of gravity' and the problem is 'how we influence them to be on our side, or at least not be an enemy' when 'what they see is armor.' The goal of such studies, Schattle said, is to distill what works and incorporate it into future training.

"Adversaries are doing their own shaping on Iraq's urban battlefields. While intimidation, coercion and assassination might not make them beloved, such techniques effectively limit public outreach to U.S. forces, the Rand study notes.

"Enemy forces have also learned that 'doing good works is a classic approach to winning friends and influencing people' and frequently provide basic services that the U.S. military is unable to match. "

Er ~ yah. Demon also imagines that raping young girls, pillaging museums, & covering up out-&-out murder of civilians by American forces by planting amaturish "evidence" near the slaughtered bodies is nothing a good dose of feel-good, old fashioned American ad campaign snake oil can't fix, neither. And they may want to rethink this as well: Bush okays resumption of harsh interrogations at Gitmo:

No worries. If all else fails, after all, it's nothing that a lush string soundtrack overlaid with images of sunshine, rainbows & mouth-watering lollipops can't fix. It'd be a hard-hearted fiend who wouldn't be seduced by American consumer culture, after all. There is no greater vision to which to aspire. Might want to lace their drinking water with some magic fairy dust & heavy-duty antidepressants while y'all are at it.



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