Three Top U.S. Agency Executives Weigh In

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NEW YORK ( -- Advertising Age asked three of the country's top ad executives their opinions for how best to influence populations throughout the Islamic world. There responses are below.

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Cliff Freeman
Chairman-chief creative officer
Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York

"One way we might show the Afghanis what this country is made of is to show them our interest in them as human beings. We have to show them that the American people are interested in working with them and helping because we relate to their struggle. As a country, we were once in the same place. We understand struggle. We understand the rights of women. Of course, so much of the healing in that country must start with the children. God knows what they've had to deal with. Women understand these things. I'm a film person, so I would communicate these things through film, telling a story through this particular issue: the rights of women."

Ellis Verdi
DeVito/Verdi, New York

"I see this kind of advertising as closely related to political advertising rather than branding. The instinct would be to use the very familiar, often obnoxious techniques from political advertising, including surrogates who say good things about our country, such as Muslim academics. The problem is you're preaching to an audience that has been raised to hate us. It's like cinema advertising. At the beginning, ads about products during movies were booed. Public relations can do more than advertising. If you live in Pakistan, you're waking up reading newspapers with anti-American stories on the front page. Advertising will not counter that. Public relations will be critical."

Jim Ferguson
President-chief creative officer
WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York

"I would hire a guerilla marketing unit. They could have fashion shows over there. They could have movies, dances. They can teach them our decadent way of living, how the infidels live over here and why it's so much fun. We could recreate the Monkey Bar over there and invite them in. You have to infiltrate their lives, and I don't think making commercials is going to do it. You set up events. You show them movies: Boogie Nights, I'd show them that. When I worked on the [current] president's campaign, we kept in mind what was brand Bush. So a lot of it is like selling soap. There's no doubt about it. The first thing is to get people to like you. You always buy something from someone you like."
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