Give Me a Break, Sheikh
May 29, 2007 7 Comments
There it was, on the back page of the first section of this morning’s Wall Street Journal.
A very colorful, visually “grabby” full-page ad from a sheikh announcing his new foundation. Now I don’t know how much it cost to put a full-page ad in the WSJ, but I do know that if the goal was to actually communicate valuable information, then every dollar was wasted.
Here is what the ad says:
10 Billion Dollars
Contributing to the Development of Knowledge and Culture
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the establishment of his foundation with an endowment of 10 billion dollars, focusing on human development in the region. The foundation will facilitate and promote knowledge creation and dissemination, and will nurture future leaders, providing them with equal opportunities with the aim of building a knowledge-based society.
MOMAMMED BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM FOUNDATION
Based on the “information” contained in this
boast self- aggrandizing commercial full-page ad, I now have no answers, but I do have an awful lot of questions. To wit:
1. “human development” – what does that mean?
2. “the region” – what region?
3. “knowledge creation and dissemination” – that could mean one hundred things, not all of them good. What is it?
4. “future leaders” – of what sort?
5. “equal opportunities” – for whom?
6. “knowledge-based society” – such as? Which knowledge?
7. “culture” – not all cultures are to be applauded. What culture is to be developed here?
Not to be crass or cynical, but this foundation could be doing anything from establishing classical schooling opportunities for underprivileged females throughout the Middle East, to training and knowledge-equipping terrorist leaders in Afghanistan. Or anything in between. I’d really like to know what “knowledge” and “development” is being envisioned in whatever “region” this is. And this full-page ad miserably fails to communicate that.
Let’s face it – post 9/11, Arab leaders have a tough audience here in the U.S. It’s a real branding/marketing problem. This kind of nebulous language won’t score any P.R. points. If this foundation were to forthrightly speak of combating terrorist brainwashing and anti-everyone-but-us hate education with some very concrete initiatives to create a more civilized society, I’d be all ears. Particularly if it was followed with action. As it is, all I see is a clumsy marketing effort for the sheikh to promote himself with his (I assume) oil riches, and dodge any specifics. Sorry – that’s a non-starter.
You know, sometimes I just don’t get it. Why would anyone spend such money to say…nothing?