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[Jerusalem] In some markets, supermodels wearing as little as possible will sell products. But in the Middle East, marketers beware. Religious sensitivities of millions of consumers restrict advertisers and impose a different set of marketing norms.

Women in the Islamic and Jewish religions are restricted from appearing in public in various forms. In Saudi Arabia, women are required to appear veiled in all TV advertising.

Also, a woman's hair and her face may not be shown together. A Procter & Gamble Pert Plus TV spot in Bahrain, by Middle East Marketing & Communications, overcame this by showing the face of a veiled woman and the hair of another woman from the back.

Islamic traditions dictate the need for specialized banking services exclusively for female clients. Dubai-based Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Middle East created a print campaign for Women's Banking Centers of the Saudi American Bank under the slogan, "Who else would design a bank specially for women," with visuals of designer items such as perfume, a handbag and makeup, aimed at the sophisticated Saudi woman who spends money on designer items.

In Israel's 450,000-strong and growing ultra-Orthodox community, women are forbidden from appearing in ads.


Marketers and advertisers must take a different tack in selling to this fast-growing segment; ultra-Orthodox consumers have larger families, with an average of eight children, and are bigger consumers of food, clothing and jewelery than the secular Israeli population.

"The world view is completely different," said Shifra Krimalovsky, head of ultra-Orthodox advertising at Gitam/ BBDO, Tel Aviv.

"Advertisers must use completely different terminology, language has to be positive and nothing can conflict with education," she said, explaining that advertisers must respect ultra-Orthodox values and not try to influence children to do anything that contradicts the values they are taught.


Five Israeli agencies specialize in advertising to this market.

Marketers are starting to see the potential in this market, expected to grow to 500,000 by the year 2000.

Osem, Israel's leading food manufacturer, allocates 10% of its reported $10 million annual advertising budget to this community. Elite, another Israeli food manufacturer, produces a special line of chocolate, coffee and snacks for the community under a special label. Strict kashrut dietary certification has to be emphasized in all food ads.

Rabbinic approval is always central in advertising to ultra-Orthodox Jews. A Gitam/BBDO ad for a local powdered baby's milk company is headed "Rabbis and doctors agree."

Many ads appear in synagogue newsletters or in the ultra-Orthodox press.

There's no TV advertising: Ultra-Orthodox Jews are prohibited from watching TV, which is considered a negative influence. A Visa campaign by Bolton & Co., a Bene Beraq-based agency, using videoscreens in banks in ultra-Orthodox areas was nixed after the banks received threats that if the videos weren't removed, the branches would be burned down.

While there are no specific legal limitations on crossing the line in advertising to this community, the slightest insult to its religious norms are often countered with well-organized and effective boycotts. Food marketers can find themselves losing valuable dietary certification. Even mainstream advertisers have been forced to "tone down" poster advertising using scantily clothed women, due to threats and vandalism from ultra-Orthodox protesters.

Contributing: Lekha Rai, Dubai.

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