Has Zain’s message of love and understanding been undermined by controversy?
Ramadan commercials don’t usually cause much controversy, but Kuwaiti telco Zain has discovered what it means to do just that.
Its three-minute video featuring Emirati pop star Hussain Al Jassmi depicts a would-be suicide bomber being confronted by the faithful. The words ‘Worship your God with love, not terror’ are central to the ad.
However, the commercial came under attack because of its use of images of five-year-old Syrian boy Omran Daqneesh.
The ad features images from bombings across the region claimed by Al-Qaeda or Daesh, but Daqneesh – who grabbed the world’s attention when he was photographed sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance – survived a regime airstrike in Aleppo, not an attack by Islamic militants. This led to the hashtag #zaindistortsthetruth quickly appearing on Twitter.
So far there have been calls for Zain to apologise to the Syrian people and for the commercial to be removed.
On Twitter, Lina Shamy posted a video in which she said Zain was exploiting the suffering of the Syrian people. “You forgot about the main terrorist, the man wearing a suit,” she said. “If you only want to see bearded men as terrorists in Syria that’s up to you. But for you to use the image of Omran is an additional crime… We demand that Zain apologises publicly and officially to the Syrian people who have suffered so much in their quest for freedom.”
Yet the video had 5.2 million views on Zain’s YouTube channel, with 74,392 likes and only 7,914 dislikes at the time of writing this, suggesting it is more popular than headlines would have you suggest.
Created by Joy Productions in Kuwait, the film was shot in Amman, Jordan, by director Samir Aboud, and the creative director behind the campaign was May al Saleh. The song sung by Al Jassmi was composed by Bashar al Shatti with lyrics by Heba Mishary Hamada.
While controversy is a healthy sign, the negative reviews on this one are mainly generated by political views and are specific to a category of people who have strong opinions about Syria.--Dolly Saidy Makhoul
“It is a great message of love in times where most of the Ramadan ads are trying to disguise our reality and make it sound like all is rosy and beautiful. It isn’t,” says Dolly Saidy Makhoul, managing director of production consultancy Mint MENA. “People are being killed daily in the name of religion. And even if an awareness message in an ad won’t stop the killing, it will at least give us a reality check and will serve as a gesture of compassion to those who have been through the suffering. It makes them feel that they exist and matter.
“While controversy is a healthy sign, the negative reviews on this one are mainly generated by political views and are specific to a category of people who have strong opinions about Syria. Yes the Syrian government might be at the head of terrorism, but it doesn’t negate the fact that terrorism is taking those innocent lives against God’s will.”
Agency: Joy Advertising Company – Kuwait
Director: Samir Aboud
Creative Director: May al Saleh
Lyrics by: Heba Mishary Hamada
Music Composition: Bashar al Shatti
Singer: Hussain al Jasmi