The controversial billboards that vanished!

Empty billboard

Over the past week I’ve been wanting to write about the unusual advertising teaser campaign that popped up on ‘mupi’ billboards across Amman. I never got to write about it and today the ads where gone! What the heck is happening!

The campaign I’m talking about (and of which I don’t even have a photo, except for a very bad one on my phone’s camera), had a green background. Each ad had a picture of a person: women in the islamic hijab (veil) and bearded men. The ads had one word slogans like: ‘Marginalized’, ‘Oppressed’, and ‘Bigot’ in Arabic of course.

The first time I saw this campaign it hit me as really daring. I didn’t know what to make of it. Was it some kind of anti extremist social campaign (very unlikely), or was it a media outlet that wanted to to correct certain stereotypes (more likely).

In any case it was an eye grabber and it really put a question mark over my head. I couldn’t wait to see how this campaign would unfold.

Then, a few days ago I started seeing another green colored campaign for a magazine called Al-Muslimah (Mulim Woman). I really though for a while that THIS was what the teaser was about, although the teaser ads where still there.

Apparently the magazine ads were unrelated (just some unlucky timing!).

Well, this morning the whole story (or at least part of it) was in the papers. It emerged that the campaign was for a local radio station (unnamed in the articles). The ads had really angered the Islamic Action Front party, who accused of the ads of being “a shameless attack on the religion, identity and values of the homeland” and “a provocation of all the Believers”. Oh boy, oh boy!

It seems that things got pretty hot around this campaign. The Ministry of Interior had the ads removed. A representative of the new radio station went to visit the IAF people and explained that this was a teaser campaign to get people’s attention. The ads were going to be replaced anyway with the 2nd phase of the campaign.

So my second theory was right: it is a media outlet that wanted to confront certain prototypes.

It is a pity the the Ministry removed the ads. Then again it was pretty good that they could stay up for this long.

Note who complained: not the Ministry of Religious Affairs, but the IAF. They, it seems from the news, induced this act of censorship. Of course it is every citizen’s right to complain about an ad campaign. But what is the criteria by which the Ministry of Interior decides to take action against an ad campaign?

The head of Lawyer’s Union also made a statement to Al Ghad newspaper saying that the advertising company and the Greater Amman Municipality bear responsibility for the “error”.

The question is: “What ‘error’?”.

Has anyone here heard of freedom of expression?

One thing is sure: the controversy gave the station some excellent free publicity today as the ads became a major news story. It would be very interesting to see what this new radio station is and what it is up to.

This campaign has scored a first in Jordan: creating controversy around social issues. Other campaigns, like the one against child abuse, also attempted this by showing abused children. But everyone sympathizes with an abused child. This campaign, however, hit something more sensitive: religious and social attitudes. Thus the uproar.

A lot depends on how the campaign will unfold over the next few days (or even tomorrow) but this campaign has definitely pushed the envelope of what’s possible.

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9 Responses to “The controversial billboards that vanished!”

  1. Roba Says:

    Wow, wonderful! Natasha and I were discussing this just the other day, and I was planning to go take pictures of the ones they had on University Street today and was surprised to see them gone.
    I’ve asked around a bit, and it’s amazing how the ad registered so severly in a lot of people’s minds. Almost everyone I asked had something to say. Some people were disturbed.. others were amazed or shocked..
    Anyway, regardless, the reaction of the Ministry is very disturbing. They refered to it as “”ومراقبة ألا يتنافى مضمونها مع الآداب العامة وألا يخدش الحياء العام فحسب
    God. Utterly unbelieavable.

  2. fida Says:

    Found a related bit of news on Petra website.

  3. David Says:

    Nah, what we need is more ads for Crown 3siir!

  4. nasimjo Says:

    ekhoan moslimeen + ramadan = Pressure ….

    The guys had to remove it … mesh na2esna 7aki el Bros …..


  5. Basem Says:

    From a bird’s eye prospective, one can perceive the interesting aspect of this case; that it is to say it challenged all parties involved, be it the government, the IAF and the society as a whole, all beyond the realm of any legacy comprehension, as everyone was quote unguarded!

    Here you have yet another new FM radio station that’s trying to make a market entrance by exploiting and usually never successful in Jordan the “teaser campaign” strategy, nothing new in that, most new music stations in Jordan did it, none managed to grab public attention though…

    I recall last year when a particular station started their teaser by littering Amman with portraits of music “legends”! I truly felt sorry for the station owner, who most probably thought there are many of his/her likes around whose into “post-modern classics and thought making a dollar out of this niche –might be terribly mislead here-! at the time though, I would have thought that having a picture of a prominent homosexual and a free-sex icon would be controversial enough to rock the “conservative” movement in our society, but it went just unnoticed… so was the fate of most billboards –and printed ads- that sports semi –semi? Mostly- naked men and women or strong sexual reference or just simply general mental exploitation or misleading and intellectually-insulting ads!

    So what happened this time around? Will… the society is dealing with the “unanticipated”, a new bread of ideologically motivated wealthy youth, utilizing technology – FM radio- and a well-established and themed campaign that starts with a teaser objectively, and while they’re on it, they challenge social misconceptions and stereotypes right from the start! Hats off and prayers of good well and hopes of prosperity for those sincere bunch –hope the radio itself will live to the havoc it created initially-!

    Little really conjugate the mind set of the people behind the station and the IAF folks, though both are “islamically” motivated, yet the latter’s methods and practices have become “rotten” and got deeply involved in their fight with the corrupt social processes & chained with it’s fabric, the former however, seems to be up for a fresh start in the midst of overwhelming surge of changes occurring around them.

    At the risk of being labeled as rhetoric, I think we are witnessing what will be an interesting cultural show-down, and what will be more intriguing to see is how the new committed Moslem youth will be capacitated within this society without being “marginalized” like they are and free from notions of “extremism”, “bigotry” or “extraneous association”.

    I think the IAF and the “concerned” society should focus more on how Ramadan is being exploiting in an utterly disgusting manner! Perhaps try to white-paint billboards hosting ads that label pictures of delicious seasonal deserts with punch lines such as “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan A7la”… or more proactively, boycott TV stations all together throughout the month to deliver the screaming message that “this is not the month of stimulating TV entertainment”!

  6. Dude Says:

    All I can say is
    why the hell do people vote for them (the IAF)
    the IAF just serves as a reminder why we should not have democracy in jordan.

  7. Hamzeh Says:

    If I could personally make the call as to whether those ads should be allowed or not, I would say keep them.

    If I could personally make the call as to whether we should go with those ads for our teaser campaign, I would say lets not. I just think this was a bad use of the “teaser campaign” idea. You know they’re not gonna like it, you know that no matter what you come out to say after it, they’re just gonna hate you. It’s not about the IAF, it’s about people in Jordan in general. It’s about Muslims in general. If you wanna market yourself, you better know who you’re gonna be marketting to. These people, clearly misscalculated the response to their campaign.

  8. David Says:

    Apparently, the radio station issuing these ads hopes to continue their campain soon, pending approval from the Ministry of Interior. According to today’s issue of the Jordan Times, “the advertisers explained to authorities what message the ads were actually meant to convey.” *

    The advertisers and their clients said the billboards were part of a new advertisement campaign meant to attract citizens’ interest and lead them to think about the end product, not give out wrong signals or stir ill feelings.

    The ads were designed to lead up to full ads for a new nonpolitical radio station “that seeks to promote our common and religious Muslim values and social teachings.”

    “Citizens misunderstood the ads,” they said. **

    According to one ad expert: “Although initially the campaign may have harmed the station because it created controversy before it even started broadcasting, I believe it was also positive in the sense that it gave them free publicity and more exposure.” ***

    • This should not come as a surprise to those who study the sociology of this region. I personally point the finger to the old educational system which sought (and in some cases, still seeks) to teach by wrote rather than by thought process. This has lead to a (quickly declining) generation of non-reasoning “acceptors”, if you will. Rather than putting a bit of logical thought process into the message of the ads, the hoi polloi decry the ads as anti-citizen and have them removed.

    ** See above point.

    *** You can’t buy this kind of publicity. This sort of tactic works perfectly in the United States all the time.

    And concerning Dude’s statement about democracy in Jordan, I say that it is impossible on several planes. While I won’t go into details, I will say that since democracy is a government by the people, it must include the freedom of speech which the IAF apparently opposes.

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