Can You Solve All Your Problems With a 30-Second Spot?

The short answer is… um… no.

A longer and more interesting answer appears on a recent episode of the public radio show This American Life. The episode is called “Shouting Across the Divide” (it originally aired in 2006) and concerns what happens when Muslims and non-Muslims try to communicate, and misfire.”

In a segment called “America, the Ad Campaign”, the US State Department hires an ad agency to “sell American values to the Muslim world.” It doesn’t work out so well. The show runs an hour, and the segment is about 15 minutes. You can listen to the episode, or download an mp3 for free here.

The episode delves into some fairly contentious areas of racial and cultural politics. I will carefully avoid them here, and offer two observations for those who, like me, write ad copy for a living:

1. If your business has big problems, advertising won’t fix them.

2. It’s tough to sell anything — a product, service, or idea — when you don’t like or understand the people you’re marketing to.


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One thought on “Can You Solve All Your Problems With a 30-Second Spot?

  1. Nice post – I’m looking forward to hearing the mp3.

    Your idea on it being tough to sell anything to people you don’t like is so true. For whatever reason, we marketers sometimes think we can “put on our marketing cap” and either effectively market to people completely different than us, or people we absolutely despise, whatever the reason. What ends up happening is you start seeing your target as idiots based on your own prejudices/dislikes, and it leads to you producing watered-down marketing.