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Friday, June 20, 2008

Beating Saudi Censors at Their Own Game

Having been chased by a few of these mutawa myself while living in KSA, I think this ad campaign is CLEVER!

Change Lingerie: Change in Saudi Arabia, 1

Change Lingerie: Change in Saudi Arabia, 1

Censor anything but the bikini.

CHANGE is an international upscale brand providing quality lingerie, swimwear and homewear. The objective of the ad was to announce the launch of CHANGE in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The ads' main focus is to utilize the concept behind censorship in Saudi Arabia to pull focus on the Brand's product line and to transform censorship into art. The ads are all in English, as they target an upscale bilingual audience.

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Creative Director: Mazen Hassan
Art Director / Illustrator: Yasser Alireza
Copywriters: Yasser Alireza, Fitna Nazer
Account management: Khaled Shalha
Published: May 2008

PICTURE SOURCE (they have more there) and Hat-tip for picture to Haitham.

Beating censors at their own game

Published Date:
19 June 2008

HOW do you advertise lingerie and swimwear in a country so conservative that only photographs of fully-clothed women are tolerated in newspapers and magazines?
In Saudi Arabia, censors use felt pens to daub over any bare flesh in foreign publications before they are allowed to hit the newsstands. Even bottles of wine are blanked out – alcohol is also taboo.

Now an inspired ad agency in Jeddah has met the creative challenge by playing on the
censorship rules to promote a range of lingerie and beachwear.

Photographs of delectable foreign models are featured with their bare flesh crudely inked over – but leaving their intimate apparel proudly displayed. The pen of the supposed censor serves to highlight the product.

"Cover anything but the lingerie," runs one slogan. "Edit anything but the bra," says another. All the ads are in English.

Mazen Hassan, the creative director of the agency involved, Memac Ogilvy & Mather, admitted the idea was "risqué". But he told The Scotsman: "The public and the client like it."

The campaign, hailed by advertising insiders as "transforming censorship into art", was launched in Saudi magazines to promote the opening in Jeddah of Change – "an international upscale brand providing quality lingerie, swimwear and homewear". The boutique, open only to women, has an all-female staff.

Lingerie has become something of a women's rights issue in Saudi Arabia. The authorities have yet to implement fully a decision made four years ago by Ghazi Algosaibi, the labour minister, to replace salesmen with women in lingerie shops. The idea was to create more jobs for the underemployed but well- educated fairer sex. But it also addressed a bizarre contradiction in Saudi society: women are forbidden to meet strange men in public, yet had to buy their most private clothing items from male sales staff. Unsurprisingly, many bashful wives gave their cup sizes to their husbands and sent them to shop for their bras and panties instead.

However, Mr Algosaibi's efforts to get more women into the workplace fell foul of highly conservative clerics who believe their place is in the home alone. The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdel-Aziz, declared the minister's proposals as "steps towards immorality and hellfire".

A telling indication of how conservative Saudi society remains was provided by a story in yesterday's Arab News, an English-language daily published in Jeddah, a bustling city on the kingdom's Red Sea coast, which is more cosmopolitan and liberal than the capital, Riyadh.

Women complained to the newspaper that they found it embarrassing to see "provocative underwear" displayed on mannequins in the windows of lingerie shops in family malls in Jeddah.

One woman, identified only as Basma, 21, recalled a particularly "upsetting and demeaning" incident.

"There was a pair of pants and a blouse displayed on a mannequin, and two store-workers (presumably male] standing close by. When they saw me, one of them pulled down the trousers," she said.

The owner of one Jeddah mall told Arab News they were considering banning dummies sporting "erotic pieces of clothing" from their shop windows. "Unfortunately, many shopkeepers believe women won't buy lingerie if they don't see them displayed interestingly," he said.

Women, apparently, are not the only window-shoppers attracted by such displays. Basma fumed: "Guys often hang around stores where lingerie is on display. I find the concept disturbing and I hate passing by places like that."


THE Saudi lingerie market is worth more than £25 million a year and rising, according to market research.

With a youthful population – 60 per cent are under 21 – and an exposure to western culture and lifestyle, that market will only expand.

European and American brands are the most popular among wealthy Saudis, but a lucrative trade in cheaper copied lingerie is controlled by Syrian businessmen.

The shops of Jeddah and the capital, Riyadh, are said to display some of the world's most erotic female underwear.

All this is conducted under the eyes of the country's mutaween, the religious police, who report to the government's committee for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice. The mutaween have been known to raid restaurants to catch out couples who are not married or related, and they have recently come under criticism for their heavy-handedness.

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