Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

10 Shevat 5759 - Jan. 27, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Ad Men Take on the Phantom of "Religious Coercion"

by S. Yisraeli

The legitimate demand of Rabbonim and public figures in the Torah-observant community to curb lewd advertising, has not been welcomed by the advertising agencies, for obvious reasons. But now the ad men are going on the offensive. An article, which recently appeared in the financial daily Globes, reported that Udi Fridan, the director general of the Reuveni-Fridan advertising firm is attempting to spur the Advertising Association to promote the legislation of the Freedom of Advertising Law.

In the first stage, they intend to set up a Council for Freedom of Advertising, whose purpose will be to "prevent self-interested parties from intervening in advertising content." The initiative began more than six months ago in reaction to efforts to legislate limitations on advertisements for tobacco and alcohol, the participation of children in advertisements, and restrictions following personal intervention of the Torah-observant community.

This council is supposed to include various factors, including advertisers, and representatives of bodies who oppose religious coercion.

"The central assumption is that it is inconceivable for the law to restrict the advertisement policies of a product which may be sold and marketed," says Freidan.

"Various bodies want to impose their views on the advertising field, under the guise of the ideal of safeguarding the citizen. The chareidim know how to exploit this situation. They want groups concerned about smoking, to pass laws in the Knesset related to the limiting of cigarette ads, in order to grant legitimacy to the limitations they impose on advertising.

"Food manufacturers yield to religious blackmail, and Poster Media ad agency grovels before the chareidim," he said. "They want the council to promote legislation which will result in sanctions against bodies who threatened ad agencies, just as regarding political threats."

Recalling the compliance of the Cellcom phone company to requests for the removal of ads that offend the Torah- observant community, Fridan says: "If there had been a Council for the Freedom of Advertising and the rival firms, Partner and Pelephone would have been members and committed themselves not to exploit a possible boycott against Cellcom by chareidi factors, it would have been impossible to threaten Cellcom. Today, every commercial body stands alone, as a captive of threats and blackmail."

At the same time Fridan admits to the hypocrisy over the issue by those in the political Left, who oppose all "limitations of freedom of speech" where indecent advertisements are concerned, yet are prepared to restrict other advertisements which are not to their liking."

He was referring to the opposition to legislation initiated by Meretz MKK Amnon Rubinstein to limit cigarette ads.

"I have this to say to Rubinstein: You're a liberal minded person, enlightened and open. You think that you are acting on behalf of the cigarette issue, and don't understand that you are actually enabling fanatical bodies to impose censorship for totally different reasons. The central point at issue is: why is it permitted for you and prohibited for them? "If those bodies who oppose smoking force the advertisers to accept their views on how to advertise cigarettes, how will it be possible, afterward, to tell the chareidim that it is forbidden to interfere in advertisements for cheese?

Religious Jews seeking to discover who is a partner to this initiative, will not have to work hard in order to disclose the identify of the ad men behind this idea.

Globes reports that the committee which authorized the Advertisers Association to act in the issue included Razi Peled, Miki Kaufman, Udi Fridan, Shlomi Avnon and Avner Barel.

Fridan, who initiated and presented the issue to the Advertising Association, even decided, in the spirit of the times, to link the censoring of creativity in ads to the political situation.


He expressed "his fear" of the overall atmosphere in the country, especially as it pertains to the incitement and to the cries of "traitor" hurled against the prime minister, and he made strange connections between these negative phenomena, and the legitimate demands of the Torah- observant community. "The mood in the State is such that there are clandestine sectors who permit themselves to act illegally, by means of blackmail and threats, and no one does a thing about this situation. Threats are also made against commercial firms and the media, and no one lifts a finger. Bodies are subject to blackmail and the censoring of creativity in advertisements, and accept this as self- understood."

Thus by means of demagogic imagery, advertisers attempt to create a distorted link between the legitimate demand to curtail indecent ads, and political incitement. They don't approve of the democratic method accepted by the entire world of a consumer boycott, when they fear that it will hurt their pocket and the pockets of those who seek their services.

Now they are seeking to fight for freedom for offensive "creativity."

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