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ISRAEL: TV ad drops laughter bomb on Iran

June 11, 2008 |  9:15 am

"My brothers, we have the uranium! After Monday, it's goodbye Israel!"

Attending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's press conference, listening to it in barbershops and coffee shops or just out on the streets, Iranians cheer and chant, "Goodbye Israel!"

For now, this isn't today's breaking news. It's the latest commercial, below, for the Israeli satellite TV company 'Yes,' yet another in a funny and provocative series that has taken godless swipes at everything from U.S. soldiers in Vietnam to Ultra-Orthodox Jews (see previous post).

Amid the chanting, a man stands up and protests: "What do you mean after Monday?! It's the last episode of Danny Hollywood!" an addictive Israeli series about a '60s rocker.

More people stand up, slapping their cheeks at the thought of their favorite TV shows going bye-bye together with the Zionist entity. Throngs of veiled women and frocked men break out in chorus lines, singing in Farsi and Hebrew to the tune of a '70s classic Israeli musical: "Don't bomb, Ahmadinejad, I'm in the middle of an episode! I'll go crazy if the series is finished. There will be a big 'balagan' in Tehran!" they warn, imploring the leader to "forget about the bombs now" and instead tune in to Israel's 'Yes-Stars' TV, which features "akhla" (Arabic for 'great') Israeli series.

Israel is genuinely concerned about Iran's nuclear program, raising the issue on every international platform possible and warning that the regime's ideology, coupled with nuclear capabilities, is a potentially deadly combination, a threat not only to Israel but to the free world at large.

Last week, a comment by Shaul Mofaz, Israel's Iranian-born transportation minister, about an inevitable Israeli strike was blamed for soaring oil prices and sent Iran to the U.N. to file a complaint against Israel. Israel too has filed numerous complaints against Iran, such as when the commander of the revolutionary guards called Israel "cancerous bacteria."

Oil prices keep reaching new highs and rhetoric new lows and the situation isn't really so funny.

But that commercial sure is.

Ido Ben-Dor, creative director for the Tel-Aviv office of the McCann-Erickson advertising agency that created the ads, isn't worried about protests or diplomatic incidents and is confident it will meet with laughs everywhere. "I have faith in the power of laughter," he says, explaining that the ad doesn't poke fun at people but rather at the situation itself. "We're not mocking anyone. We chose humor to disarm a situation." The Jews, he points out, have been laughing off hardship for centuries. It's more than a knack -- it's an imperative, "part of our survival talent." And besides: The ability to laugh at yourself does earn you some credit when it comes to others.

The script was written in Hebrew and translated by an Israeli speaker of Farsi ('not so easy to find, by the way'), a local Israeli actor played the role of Ahmadinejad and hundreds of extras were used to evoke a crowded Tehran scene in the Arab alleyways of the Old City of Jaffa, with minarets in the background.

Both company and advertising agency have gone out on a limb before, pushing the limits of humor with little patience for political correctness. What the creative director calls 'trailblazing creative' has already had one campaign pulled in the past, but PC aside, the ads are admittedly hilarious.

Ido Ben-Dor says Iranians are known for their fine humor. "I'm sure they will find this funny too. My goal was to make Ahmadinejad laugh."

If he doesn't, Ben-Dor might start practicing his Farsi: yek shookhi namitavaneed tahamol koneed? -- can't you take a joke? (Thanks, B.!)

— Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem.

Commercial with permission of McCann-Erickson in Israel.