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Selling Israeli Products to Arabs : Ad Man Musa Hasadiyah Successfully Bridges the Gap

December 25, 1987|SUSAN SAPPIR | Reuters

TEL AVIV — An Israeli company promoting a new hair-removal device among Arab and Jewish women faced a problem trying to appeal to both cultures.

The firm turned to Musa Hasadiyah, an Israeli Arab whose Al-Bustani Advertising Agency does big business selling products to the 800,000 Arabs of Israel and the 1.4 million Arabs of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

His solution was simple: The model--who revealed everything from her painted toenails to her upper thigh in the Hebrew advertisement--wore a dress in the Arabic version, exposing her leg only from the knee down.

It takes more than translating ad copy from Hebrew to Arab to reach the Arab market, which has its own consumption patterns, Hasadiyah said.

"The language of advertising is different. (Arab) society is more conservative," said the 30-year-old ad man. Photographs must be touched up to cover bare skin, characters must be changed and texts must be adjusted.

Market Had Been Ignored

Born in the Israeli coastal village of Faradis, Hasadiyah graduated from Tel Aviv University and learned the advertising business during more than three years at a major Tel Aviv agency before he opened his own firm in 1985.

"When I first approached Israeli manufacturers just a few years ago, I discovered they completely ignored the Arab market, yet it is a market of 2.2 million people," he said. He did market research in the Arab sector to make Israeli producers aware of the untapped market in Israel and the territories it has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war. His next step was to lure Arab customers.

"With milk and milk products, we really changed consumption patterns," Hasadiyah said. "People (Arabs) learned to eat sour cream, yogurt, cheeses and puddings--and not just yogurts made at home."

Higher Consumption

One of Al-Bustani's largest accounts is Tnuva, a leading Israeli manufacturer of dairy products. Although many of the products have only recently been introduced, Hasadiyah said the per-capita consumption among Palestinians under Israeli rule is now higher than among Israelis.

Meir Maor of Tnuva's marketing department said a popular product among Arabs is sterilized milk. "Many Arabs, especially in the West Bank, don't have refrigerators," he said. "They buy sterilized milk because it keeps for months."

An Arabic advertisement for Tnuva's "White House" line of cream cheese showed an attractive table filled with cheeses, breads, fruit and coffee--outside the White House.

The Hebrew advertisement depicted President and First Lady Nancy Reagan at the table. Hasadiyah said: "We figured that wouldn't work for us. They're not very popular among Arabs."

Religious Fundamentalism

Hasadiyah said Jewish advertisers had more problems with religious fundamentalists than he did.

Two summers ago, Orthodox Jews burned down bus-stop shelters that displayed ads of women in skimpy bathing suits.

"I think Moslem fundamentalists and the Islamic Brotherhood are no different from the ultra-Orthodox Jews, and are probably the same proportion of the population, about 20%," Hasadiyah said.

"But the Arabs are more tolerant about advertisements. I never heard of them burning a bus stop or a newspaper or anything," he said.

He said he tries to avoid offending religious sensibilities in the first place. When bare skin is essential, he keeps it to a minimum and sometimes alters the message.

In advertisements for the hair remover, for example, Hebrew speakers were urged to abandon painful razors. Arab women were told the new apparatus was better than a traditional lemon juice and sugar mixture.

Israeli products are packaged in Hebrew, but Hasadiyah said he knew of no objections.

In another campaign, a soft drink company asked customers to do a crossword puzzle with Hebrew letters inside the lids of their cans. "The response was tremendous, even in the West Bank where hardly anybody knows Hebrew. They just looked closely at the shapes of the letters and matched them up," Hasadiyah said.

"Our agent told me: 'You're doing what the Ministry of Education couldn't do. Thanks to this campaign, people in the West Bank learned Hebrew.' "

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