I've cracked it. I've worked out how to solve the Middle East conflict. Forget local government boycotts, road maps, conferences and all the other hopelessly flawed hoopla. There is only one way to bring peace to the Middle East.
We do it with advertising.
Here's my plan. We get each of the main players to do a proper ad campaign, selling the benefits of living in their countries to each other. Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinians - Hamas and Fatah will have to do two separate campaigns - Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Kuwait and of course Israel will all take part.
I bags working on the Israel account.
Here's how it works. Every country runs a series of full page print ads, backed up by tv commercials, radio spots, websites and letter drops - in other words a major, fully integrated campaign - throughout the Middle East. The point of the ad campaigns is to get people to fill in the coupon at the bottom of the page, or if they want, to apply online, to come and live in whichever country they choose, based solely on the ads. Anyone can go and live in any country they want to, but they can only pick one destination, and there is no changing your mind. Once you've chosen, that's it, that's your new life. So, for example, if you are living in the rubble of a burnt out block of flats in Benghazi you can choose to go and live in a swish apartment in downtown Al Khor if that is what you decide after falling in love with the "Where else but Qatar?" campaign. Or if you're at your wits end with life on the West Bank, apply online toilovesaudi.com and you're off to a life of luxury in a high rise in Rhiyad.
There's only one catch. The ads have to be legal, honest, decent and truthful. That is to say, they have to meet all the standards that normal, everyday product ads are forced to abide by. No propaganda. No spin. Just the truth, told well; as McCanns would say.
You are allowed to run as many ads as you like, focussing on as many benefits as you like that you think will persuade people to come and live in your country. You may compare yourself to your competitors - for example, by contrasting your schools and kindergartens with those of your next door neighbors - but as with all ethical advertising you are not allowed to demonize the competition or make false claims about their brand. So unfortunately for numerous Arab states their government sponsored literature and news programmes claiming that Jews are all pigs who will drink the blood of your babies won't be admissible, because that falls under the heading of "unfair and misleading" which means it's a no-no. (I know they've spent squillions on such material but maybe they could pulp it all and recycle the paper.)
The brief is an open one. So, for example, if you think you have a superior track record on women's rights, then say so. As a guide, here are some of the many topics I think the campaigns should address: universal healthcare, democratic principles, wealth distribution, women's and minorities' rights, gay rights, care for the environment, care for the elderly and disabled, primary, secondary and tertiary education, freedom of expression and employment opportunities. Ticking all these boxes in a positive way will go a long way to attracting the target audience (ie everybody, and don't forget that that includes women.) But don't be shy. If you think your legal system is vastly superior to everyone else's by all means spell it out - just bear in mind that the normal restrictions apply on what can and can't be shown on TV before 9pm. When advertising the benefits to the community of limb amputation for thieving, gang rape for apostasy, or death by stoning for adultery please ask your creative department to go easy on the blood and gore.
Lifestyle is important in advertising. You are permitted to use beautiful photography and eloquent prose to emphasize such "quality of life" issues as dining out, theatre, sport, retirement, the arts, musical festivals and other cultural attractions.
Financial and economic matters may appear at first glance a little dry. But don't hesitate to explain how your state reinvests it's sovereign wealth for the good of the whole community, with appropriate graphs and pictorial explanations. Just a note of caution: if you are not familiar with sharing the wealth of your nation beyond immediate family and friends, be aware that certain imagery can be misconstrued. Recent research throughout the region suggests that repeated references to billions stashed in private Swiss bank accounts accompanied by glossy pictures of lavish seaside villas, opulent palaces, fancy military uniforms, limousines and shopping trips to Knightsbridge - although at first glance extremely attractive from an advertising point of view - tends to alienate, rather than reassure, key demographics.
Oh, and I almost forgot - no mention of religion. None whatsoever. Zilch. I know it's a big ask, but this is product based advertising and that's what the guidelines say. KFC manage to sell bucketloads of chicken without mentioning their fondness for the Disciples of Christ so why should it be any different for you? If your product's any good it will sell itself without relying on threats of eternal damnation or unsubstantiated claims of frolicking with virgins in the afterlife.
I know I cheated and chose the easy brand for myself, but here's how I think things will pan out. Self-interest is a hugely motivating and powerful force. After having been exposed to all the ads, and having had time to absorb the benefits demonstrated by the diverse campaigns, self-interest will kick in. And based on mankind's universal and insatiable desire for personal freedom, opportunity for your offspring, liberty and equality; virtually every man, woman and child in the Middle East will want to move to Israel.
Impractical, I know. But it might make them a little less keen to blow the place up.
Copyright Rowan Dean 2011http://tiny.cc/9t0bq