Saatchi and the Sly Campaign for the Beirut Airport

I have only a few details to add to this piece by Lee Smith in the Weekly Standard explaining why this Saatchi campaign for Beirut Airport duty-free store is so clever. Watch it all the way through:

Now, as Smith notes, the airport is effectively controlled by Hezbollah:

Compare the “Dabke” video to footage of this recent Hezbollah show of force at the same airport, where numerous Hezbollah security vehicles are rushing the entrance to meet one of their allies, Jamil al-Sayyid.

video

This was one of the four Lebanese generals once detained for his suspected involvement in the February 2005 assassination of the man the airport is named after.

Retaining control over that airport is essential to Iran. For obvious reasons. 

The only thing I’d add is that Saatchi is the ad firm that brought Margaret Thatcher to power and kept her there. They’re not stupid.

So you bet they understood what they were doing with this ad. 

  1. Kozak
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Celebrating secular consumerism is exactly the way to bring down Islamists.

    Worked on the Soviets. A desire for bluejeans and rock and roll had as much to do with the collapse of the Soviet Empire as MIRV’s and Stinger missles.  We should be carpet bombing the Middle East with Skymall catalogs and jamming Al Jazerra with nonstop MTV.

  2. Capt. Aubrey

    The Time Warner annual report the year after the Berlin Wall came down said “The first things people wanted were green bananas and vinyl records. Didn’t seem that long ago until I remembered that. 

  3. Leith
    Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

     

    Celebrating secular consumerism is exactly the way to bring down Islamists.

    Worked on the Soviets. A desire for bluejeans and rock and roll had as much to do with the collapse of the Soviet Empire as MIRV’s and Stinger missles.  We should be carpet bombing the Middle East with Skymall catalogs and jamming Al Jazerra with nonstop MTV. · Mar 19 at 2:19am

    You  had me, until MTV and this is why:

    http://dailycaller.com/2011/03/18/hamas-associated-cair-applauded-by-white-house/3/

    A sidebar to the link is, that it made me think about the article Claire wrote about how the term Islamophobia came into being.  CAIR’s seems to be doing something similar.

  4. Ross C

    I am reminded of the plot of both Breakin’ movies (yeah that’s right #2 electric boogaloo).  Evil developers are encroaching on our community center?….Quick let’s break and pop!

    Hezbollah is coming in their black SUV’s?  How ’bout a dance number?

  5. Ajax von Kaiserpenguin

    Men and women dancing together in public?  Have these women no shame?  When will they be stoned to death for such brazen harlotry?

  6. Rosie

    I had fun just watching the Saatchi video.  It seems that Hezbollah hasen’t completely destroyed the joy de vivre from the Lebanese.

  7. Cas Balicki

    Airports are society’s most cosmopolitan places, vital even to failed states and gangster governments. They are also a source of power in that he who controls the airport controls who comes and goes, which is vital to a despotic power relative to its satrap. The contrast is more than remarkable, it is schizophrenic and typical of the Middle East where you need MEMRI to translate between what is said and shown to the West and what is said and shown to the rubes back at the squat. Can you blame a shopkeeper, Saatchi, for wanting to sell more. Probably not. Can you blame Hezbollah and by extension Iran for being evil. No. Both are acting in character. All I would add is pity the Western woman who might think Beirut is still the Paris of the Middle East for she’s likely to lose a lot more than her duty free perfume in the confusion.

  8. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Cas Balicki:  Can you blame a shopkeeper, Saatchi, for wanting to sell more. 

    That’s not Saatchi’s objective here. Watch it to the final tagline.

  9. James Lileks
    C

    “Seen in this light, Saatchi’s “Dabke” flash mob might be seen as an effort to reclaim, or liberate, a public space named after the man whose murder gave rise to the first Arab uprising, the Independence Intifada, or Cedar Revolution.”

    Or Saatchi is cashing a check to create a prefab fantasy version of consumerist, young, hipster Lebanon to make people want to spend money at the duty-free shop? I honestly don’t know. Would we be applauding the wry, subversive wit of the ad if it advertised the fun-lovin’ spirit of the Tehran Airport food court? Hey, they’re dancing! They’re just like us! It’s likely they knew what they were doing – advertising people usually do – but the bottom line was the bottom line, and all the sweet billings they’d get.  

  10. Trace

    I’m with Claire. I choose to see the subversive irreverence in the ad. I suspect the space is far too emotionally charged for this ad not to resonate in more ways than simply pitching duty-free shopping. And if it celebrates secular consumerism a bit too much — well there are worse ways to bring down despots.

  11. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Trace Urdan: I’m with Claire. I choose to see the subversive irreverence in the ad. I suspect the space is far too emotionally charged for this ad not to resonate in more ways than simply pitching duty-free shopping. And if it celebrates secular consumerism a bit too much — well there are worse ways to bring down despots. · Mar 18 at 11:41pm

    Celebrating secular consumerism is exactly the way to bring down Islamists. Break that phrase down: “secular”–self-explanatory. “Consumerism”–what do we mean by that? We mean free markets and all they do. Yes, people everywhere want to be able to afford and to buy costly things for themselves and their families. A society in which people can afford iPhones and Louis Vuitton luggage also tends to be one in which they can afford clean drinking water and top-flight medical care. You think people don’t realize that the Hezbollah doesn’t exactly have a path-to-riches economic program? They do realize it. People everywhere want the stuff they sell in airports. That’s why they sell it in airports. 

  12. Matthew Shaffer
    C

    If it’s true what they say, that the conflict of our time is Jihad versus McWorld, then this video is proof more than any other that McWorld is winning.

  13. David John

    Excellent. Thanks for the Saatchi video.

    Yes, Saatchi knows the airport people, the affluent people. Yes, the affluent seek freedom to dance, as found only in the far destinations of their airline tickets.

    What does the ordinary guy-on-the-street in Instanbul think about this video?