Oct 3, 2011

Targeted Advertising Of Jerusalem Light-Rail Upsets Some As Cowtowing To Haredim

I saw the following ad this past weekend, I think it was in Mishpacha newspaper:
The ad struck me, grabbed my attention. I thought these two men in the image talking about crossing safety near Jerusalem Light-Rail tracks, look a bit strange. Not the colorful ties, but the wide-eyed blank stares. The faces seem almost cartoonish to me because of it.

It turns out though that the ad bothered other people, but for a different reason. The above ad, again, discussing safety of carefully crossing the Jerusalem Light-Rail tracks, was run in haredi media and in haredi neighborhoods and around Jerusalem. In other cities and areas that are populated by the secular community, and in media targeting the secular community, a slightly different image graced the Jerusalem Light-Rail track crossings. That image would be:

The difference between the two ads is obvious: the direction of the Jerusalem Light-Rail train. Just joking. The models in the image. In the Jerusalem-based ad it was two male, haredi, models, while in the national campaign it was two female models.

This "censorship" of not showing women in the Jerusalem ads has upset many, and various people are petitioning various relevant authorities to change the policy, to not let the capital become Iran, etc.

Personally, I don't see it. I see it as targeted advertising. I do not agree with the policy that has become all-too-common among the haredi community to refuse to print images of women  or to read publications that do print such images, or to get upset at companies that advertise with images of women (I would qualify it by saying as long as the women are modest in appearance). I understand some hasidic groups are overly sensitive, perhaps Gerrer hassidim first and foremost and then maybe Breslavers, and that is probably where it began. I do not know how the Litvishe Haredim took it upon themselves full-force, and I understand even less how "Anglo-Haredim" who, for the most part, would have no problem picking up and reading a TIME magazine or a Newsweek, a Forbes or a Fortune 500, a New York Times or a Wall Street Journal that all have images of women, have found themselves insisting on such requirements in many situations.

Regardless of that, right or wrong as it might be, or right or wrong as I think it might be, as long as the community has that "sensitivity", or perhaps societal requirement is a better term, companies advertising are smart advertising taking the communal "needs" into account. Nobody would expect a food importer to advertise pork to the Muslim community just because it is wrong to censor pork from city billboards. Targeted advertising is knowing what your target audience wants to see, what causes them to react in the way you are hoping for, and advertising appropriately. If they decide a certain area has a large audience that wants to see x and not y, it is smart to target the advertisements appropriately.


  1. I think that the male models are the same guy twice - no?

  2. Rafi were you around about 5 years ago when Beis Tefilla put out that "getting to know us" pamphlet with photos of all the members - men only?!

  3. same guy? maybe. I thought that at first, then they seemed only to look similar, but maybe..

    Miriam - yes. it was republished again (updated version) this past year..

  4. Why can't you just assume that the poster is what it is. A warning about crossing the street with the new trains. Maybe, just maybe, they want people to READ the sign and not get killed. Maybe they feel they got a much better chance of having the sign being read if it didn't have pictures of women.

    Why do you have to turn every single thing into a Chareidi expose?

  5. not quite sure what you mean. it was in the news that organizations and secular city councilpeople in Jerusalem were filing protests over the issue. I didnt turn it into anything. Just the opposite - I defended their use of male models in the haredi neighborhoods (even though I think the demand for such gender-specific restrictions is silly)

  6. Rafi - You argue well for seeing it as a case study in targeted advertising. But the much more interesting issue it raises is whether the desire to eliminate every representation of women in media is a healthy one.

    I am a religious woman who dresses modestly and covers my hair AND my personal feeling is that it has already reached a stage of pathological avoidance. Put women on the back of the bus, Photoshop them out of news photos, etc. I recently read an ad for a publication looking for a writer which explicitly said that a woman could write the article but it had to be published in her husband's name. I know of a graphic artist who was required to airbrush all the women's faces in his company's Jewish book catalog. There is no way I will ever agree that this sort of behavior brings kedusha. Sorry, but you can't attain kedusha at the expense of kavod habriot.


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