Ad Critique

Standing in the shoes of your Muslim audience

9, December, 2011



This campaign was shot for CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the USA.

The context: American Muslims feel that they are increasingly the target of suspicion in the USA, despite their own feelings that they are an integrated part of the country and want to be accepted as such.

The concept: The advert was part of a campaign to encourage people to create and submit one minute films under the topic “Let the conversation begin”. The conversation referred to the wider public in the USA talking to each other and talking to Muslims about the role and place of Muslims and Islam in America.  The advert was aimed at Muslims. The advert portrays a Muslim man at an airport checking the time to see when it will be time to pray his daily prayers, and trying to find a place to pray them. Prayers are obligatory for Muslims wherever they are, and they must  be prayed during a specific time window. The advert starts with an ominous ticking, resonant of an explosive device. Then we see a man rushing at an airport with his luggage, clearly dressed to be perceived as a Muslim. These elements clearly create an idea in the mind of the audience connecting together airport, explosion, Muslim, ticking. In the waiting area, the man decides to pray, and the other travellers look more and more nervous. A security guard approaches and draws his baton. The audience waits for him to attack the Muslim. Instead, he lays down the baton and joins in the prayer. The mood of the advert changes, and once the prayer is finished the man and security guard hug, and turn towards the other travellers, where hands are shaken and the group engage in dialogue accompanied by smiles and warmth.

What we liked: The advert wins over its target audience by speaking clearly and honestly to them and showing empathy for their situation. The intended audience will immediately recognise the situation of the protagonist, and it is possible they will have faced a similar incident. The nervous, even hateful looks of the travellers may be something they have experienced themselves. They too will have been torn between discharging their religious duty, and an apprehension about how people around them will react to an obvious display of being Muslim. Having won the intended audience over, it shows a new possible reality that could happen if they are to get involved in the campaign. This sense of inherent optimism about the future, and about possible dialogue is ingrained into Muslims, who are always hopeful of positive outcomes and improvements.