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Advertising: It’s All Good Until It Goes Wrong

“If an ad campaign is built around a weak idea — or as is so often the case, no idea at all — I don’t give a damn how good the execution is, it’s going to fail.”
-Morris Hite

Advertising is everywhere.

It’s almost impossible to block it out of your life; You turn on your T.V., you’ll see ads. Browsing through the web, you’ll see ads. While watching your favorite show, you might now see clever product placements by brands to build an emotional connection with their target audience. Scrolling through your news feed on facebook or twitter, you’ll see promoted tweets/posts. In fact, the average person sees about 5,000 ads a day; indeed a lot of mental clutter.

The objective of any advertisement is to call people to a certain product, service, or need. Undeniably, advertising has the power to influence human behavior from consumption to shaping perceptions on politics, religion, groups, ideas, you name it. No wonder why the current presidential campaign ad spending has already exceeded a whopping $500 million!.

Now with advertising, comes responsibility. Any ad campaign that’s ran should have a degree of authenticity or at the least, convey a message in a civilized manner.

You’ve probably heard of the phrase or practice of “False Advertising”. Mobile giant Nokia was recently exposed for falsely misleading consumers about their PureView camera technology in their new flagship device. After they got caught, they did go ahead and conduct an ethics review.

Anyway, while false advertising is mostly used in the context of consumer affairs, it’s sad to see this practice of sending misleading and deceptive information present in other types of ad campaigns as well.

From time to time, we come across an ad campaign that makes us stop and think twice. This happened to me when I heard about the newest campaign being funded and ran through subways by the ‘American Freedom Defense Initiative’.

It’s disappointing that I needed to have a post on my blog dedicated to this, but it goes to show what type of world we’re currently living in.

Take a look at the ad below for yourself:

There is no denying freedom of speech certainly goes hand in hand with advertising, however it’s senseless to present a religious concept such as “Jihad” without conveying what it actually means and using it without it’s proper context.

Conversely, here is an ad campaign titled “You Deserve to Know” that was designed by Islamic Circle of North America (NY), which were placed on the NYC Subway in 2008. It is clearly noticeable that these ads were not offensive rather they deliberately encouraged viewers to research and come to their own conclusions about certain topics/concepts related to Islam.

When running an ad campaign, one must research their audience meticulously otherwise their own campaign can be turned turn against them. For example Newsweek magazine recently ran a cover on the topic of “Muslim Rage”. Social media users used Newsweek’s own hashtag (#MuslimRage) to mock the stereotypical notion of the Muslim world being violent and always ready to erupt.

In this case, New Yorkers who travel the Subway daily, are bombarded with ads may not appreciate an ad which attempts to “shove” an idea or product down their throats. In addition, New Yorkers are very diverse and are sensitive to hate speech, and may just react contrary to how  the  American Freedom Defense Initiative intended.

However, as Morris Hite highlighted, any ad campaign that’s built on a weak idea will fail. And the campaign recently executed by the American Freedom Defense Intiative will indeed fail, while the voices of justice, intelligence and morality will prevail.

I apologize if I rushed through this post, but I’ll end with an ayah (verse)  from the Qur’an where Allah (swt ) commands the believers:

“And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it].”