GLOBAL BRIEF: Making a difference in Ulster - McCanns Belfast has run into trouble with its latest proposal. By Richard Cook

Imagine a world where advertising is not just about the choices we make as consumers, but about those we have to make as citizens. Unfortunately, for all the misplaced hope engendered by ceasefires and negotiations, the people of Northern Ireland still don’t have to imagine such a world.

Imagine a world where advertising is not just about the choices we

make as consumers, but about those we have to make as citizens.

Unfortunately, for all the misplaced hope engendered by ceasefires and

negotiations, the people of Northern Ireland still don’t have to imagine

such a world.



McCann-Erickson Belfast has had the good fortune to work for the

Northern Ireland Office at one of the brightest moments in that

country’s troubled history - the historic ceasefire achieved in 1995.

Then the agency screened a heart-warming story of childhood friendships,

ending with the words: ’Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the

time.’



But, two years on, a palpable sense of desperation has crept into the

proposed new work. The Northern Ireland Office had decided to reprise

the hard-hitting anti-terrorist campaign of 1993 which is currently

playing as part of a heavyweight advertising push.



But it is the proposed new work, due to break later in the year if the

go-ahead is given this week, that has caused the latest controversy. One

of the seven executions the agency has prepared, called ’where?’, uses

archive footage of the Kristallnacht purge on Jews living in Nazi

Germany, intercut with news pictures of unrest in Ulster. But

Kristallnacht involved the enforced removal of 30,000 men to

concentration camps and the destruction of shops and synagogues -

commentators felt it inappropriate to make a connection between the

Holocaust and sectarian violence. The critics’ indignation was fanned by

remarks made by the Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, that

the comparison was valid.



The controversy could mean the ad is never screened.But the agency is

still faced with the problem of having to create images and words strong

enough to make a difference in a world where violence is used to sell

such things as computer games. At least McCanns knows the ads will be as

neutral as possible - they will be analysed by the team of psychologists

employed by the agency. At least they are trying to do the right thing

and make a difference.



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