Pretty face, ugly ad­ver­tis­ing

MY WORD

Jerusalem Post - - OBSERVATIONS - • By LIAT COLLINS

And now for a com­mer­cial break. It’s not that there’s no news – far from it – but re­cently I saw an Is­raeli tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tise­ment so of­fen­sive that it was a dis­trac­tion of the worst kind.

Megas­tar model Bar Re­faeli has never shied away from cheap pub­lic­ity, but her lat­est com­mer­cial for Hood­ies re­ally hits be­low the belt. It shows Re­faeli and friends, male and fe­male, ogling the torso of a young man get­ting dressed, pulling up his un­der­pants with a snap. Un­able to see the face that goes with the body, Re­faeli later seems sur­prised rather than shocked when the young man turns around and calls out: “Sis­ter!” (I was re­lieved to learn that although her younger brother is a model, the abs on dis­play in the com­mer­cial be­long to a stand-in.)

Re­faeli has never struck me as a role model. Long be­fore “Won­der Woman” Gal Gadot proved that com­bat train­ing in the IDF could be an as­set and was some­thing to be proud of, Re­faeli in­fa­mously fic­ti­tiously mar­ried to avoid mil­i­tary ser­vice, which she feared would in­ter­fere with her mod­el­ing ca­reer. In a re­cent cam­paign for the Carolina Lemke eye-wear brand, in which Re­faeli re­port­edly has a share, she teamed up with Jeremy Meeks, whose claim to fame is that his smol­der­ing mugshot as a felon launched his mod­el­ing ca­reer after his re­lease from jail.

I don’t know which mar­ket­ing ge­nius thought to com­bine Re­faeli’s pretty face with an ad im­ply­ing an in­ces­tu­ous re­la­tion­ship as a gim­mick to at­tract the younger mar­ket (or any mar­ket, for that mat­ter).

Com­ing at the height of the #MeToo cam­paign rais­ing aware­ness of the ex­tent of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, the ad­ver­tise­ment seems es­pe­cially ill-con­ceived. I have pre­vi­ously voiced my reser­va­tions re­gard­ing #MeToo – which lumps to­gether ev­ery­thing from un­com­fort­able stares and awk­ward com­pli­ments to phys­i­cal at­tacks and rape. I also noted that in or­der to have an ef­fect, there has to be a change in the ad­ver­tis­ing and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries.

The Vir­ginia Slims cig­a­rette ads that hit the mar­ket in the late 1960s as the fem­i­nist move­ment was be­gin­ning to take off boasted: “You’ve come a long way, baby!” We now know that smok­ing is dan­ger­ous but ob­vi­ously we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns. The least suc­cess­ful ads are those in which you can’t tell what is be­ing sold (apart from the model’s body).

At the other ex­treme, avoid­ing us­ing women’s faces at all, as some­times hap­pens with bill­board cam­paigns in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak when ad­ver­tis­ers fear the wrath of ul­tra-Or­tho­dox zealots, is not a healthy di­rec­tion to be head­ing ei­ther.

There have been a few Is­raeli com­mer­cials mem­o­rable for the right rea­sons. The Milky ads with two women rac­ing their shop­ping carts down the su­per­mar­ket aisles to grab the last hugely pop­u­lar choco­late dessert on the shelf went down in lo­cal his­tory. In 1993, Yael Abe­cas­sis man­aged to com­bine hu­mor and the ad­ver­tis­ing world’s equiv­a­lent of safe sex when she cheek­ily opened her coat to re­veal to male model Lior Miller (but not to view­ers) what she was or wasn’t wear­ing un­der­neath. Cas­tro is still so proud of the ad that its web­site boasts that it was the com­pany’s “big break­through to con­sumer aware­ness... The coat cam­paign pre­cisely de­fined Cas­tro’s DNA: fash­ion­able, sur­pris­ing, Is­raeli, and ours.”

The ad, in­ci­den­tally, fea­tured the song “Creep” by the then-lit­tle known band Ra­dio­head, thus pro­pel­ling it to last­ing star­dom in Is­rael.

That the Cas­tro ad first ap­peared in 1993 is not by chance. That was the year com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion ar­rived in Is­rael, on Novem­ber 4, after years of pi­lot pro­grams.

As me­dia af­fairs re­porter, I cov­ered the launch of com­mer­cial TV for The Jerusalem Post. The de­tails are now sketchy – a blur of press con­fer­ences and me­dia events. One thing I re­mem­ber clearly was be­ing out­raged by the first movie shown on Chan­nel 2, on the first day of broad­casts. The movie Agil Beza­yin pur­ported to be a doc­u­men­tary fol­low­ing the (low) life of a beach bum in Ei­lat who worked as a gigolo prey­ing on tourists. I don’t want to trans­late the film ti­tle in a fam­ily pa­per. Suf­fice to say it refers to the pierc­ing in a par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive part of the pro­tag­o­nist’s anatomy. Not some­thing that Yael Abe­cas­sis could ever re­veal un­der her coat.

The choice of movie by Chan­nel 2 fran­chise Tel-Ad re­flected the de­ci­sion to ap­peal to the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor – and to present a com­plete con­trast to pub­lic tele­vi­sion’s un­til-then-un­ri­valed Chan­nel 1. It was down­hill from there. Last week, to much un­nec­es­sary fan­fare, Keshet and Reshet, the two sur­viv­ing fran­chises, were each allocated their own com­mer­cial chan­nel, in­stead of shar­ing the broad­cast waves in an un­wieldy sys­tem in which cer­tain days were Keshet’s and the rest Reshet’s. The two com­pa­nies ended up du­pli­cat­ing for­mats from game shows to re­al­ity TV, un­til few view­ers could tell which pre­sen­ter be­longed to which com­pany. Chan­nel 2 was later joined by Chan­nel 10, which has known fi­nan­cial and cre­ative ups and downs. Mean­while, in May, the Is­rael Broad­cast­ing Author­ity was closed down and a new pub­lic broad­cast­ing com­pany, known as Kan, took its place. (One of its ca­su­al­ties was the English-lan­guage tele­vi­sion news broad­cast.)

Now, the three com­mer­cial sta­tions – Keshet, Reshet and the re­branded 10 – need to fight for view­ers and ad­ver­tis­ers to sur­vive. I pre­dict that the al­ready not-so-pretty pic­ture is go­ing to get uglier.

MK Nach­man Shai, who for­merly headed both the Sec­ond Author­ity for Tele­vi­sion and Ra­dio and the now de­funct IBA, warned in last week’s Post: “The writ­ing is on the wall. The fi­nan­cial cost will quickly be con­verted into poor qual­ity pro­gram­ming.”

FE­MALE JOUR­NAL­ISTS from across the Is­raeli me­dia have joined the #MeToo cam­paign with a vengeance. This week, Keshet pres­i­dent Alex Gi­lady “tem­po­rar­ily” left his po­si­tion fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions by two well-known jour­nal­ists – Oshrat Kotler and Neri Livneh – con­cern­ing Gi­lady’s be­hav­ior decades ago. Also this week, Yo­ram Zack, the pro­ducer and di­rec­tor of Keshet’s Big Brother re­al­ity show, was blasted for a let­ter he sent to staff seven years ago de­tail­ing per­sonal fan­tasies re­gard­ing the fe­male staff. Gi­lady is­sued a pe­cu­liar apol­ogy to Livneh’s charges in Haaretz, call­ing them “largely in­ac­cu­rate,” while Zack apol­o­gized in his own way say­ing: “I thought at the time it was funny. Read­ing it now... makes me cringe with em­bar­rass­ment.”

In­ci­den­tally, hav­ing ex­ploited her younger brother, Re­faeli re­port­edly will co-host the com­ing sea­son of Big Brother. And she will no doubt con­tinue to be seen in com­mer­cials on all the avail­able sta­tions. A few years ago, she even starred in a Su­per Bowl ad, kiss­ing Wal­ter the Nerd in a Go Daddy com­mer­cial, ac­com­pa­nied by what Time mag­a­zine called “some of the most un­set­tling wet sound ef­fects this side of a Walk­ing Dead zom­bie killing.”

What­ever turns you on. Or off. The viewer can zap sta­tions, and the con­sumer is free to de­cide which prod­ucts to pur­chase.

When Chan­nel 2 was launched, nearly a quar­ter of a cen­tury ago, Is­rael’s ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try be­came ex­cited about the new pos­si­bil­i­ties, such as car com­mer­cials, un­til then prac­ti­cally un­heard of here. To whet our ap­petites, me­dia re­porters were given a video tape record­ing the sub­mis­sions to an in­ter­na­tional ad­ver­tis­ing com­pe­ti­tion. Some were funny, some re­lied on fear, some were sexy, oth­ers cute. There were ads to en­tice view­ers to buy things they didn’t need or couldn’t af­ford, but also pub­lic safety cam­paigns. As a lec­turer in a He­brew Univer­sity course on ad­ver­tis­ing once pointed out to me, the per­sua­sion tech­niques are the same. It’s what they are used for that dif­fers.

Good ad­ver­tis­ing can be fun and in­for­ma­tive; poor ad­ver­tis­ing leaves us with a bad taste, pay­ing un­told so­cial costs. A pretty face does not com­pen­sate for an ugly mes­sage.

liat@jpost.com

(Il­lus­tra­tive file photo: Ro­nen Zvu­lun/Reuters)

BAR RE­FAELI poses dur­ing a photo shoot for a fash­ion cat­a­logue in Tel Aviv.

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