MADISON AVENUE challenged Advertising Agencies all over the country to tackle the "misperceptions" of Islam

Adweek editors Eleftheria Parpis and Brian Morrissey challenged over 30 agencies to apply their communications skills to address the issue. ONLY FIVE even took the challenge. And none were from the leaders in the advertising industry – they knew better than to accept a challenge that was a guaranteed loser going in.

ADWEEK – The controversy over the proposed site of the (Park 51) Ground Zero Victory Mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has inspired a fervent national debate about religious freedom and tolerance and protecting the sanctity of a site where thousands perished in the World Trade Center attacks.

According to a Time magazine poll conducted last year, 61 percent of 1,000 adults surveyed opposed the project, while 26 percent supported it. Just 23 percent said it would be a symbol of religious tolerance, while 44 percent said it would be an insult to those who died on 9/11. Additionally, 46 percent of those polled believed Islam was more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against non-believers, although only 37 percent said they knew a Muslim American.

The challenge posed was to change the perceptions of ordinary Americans toward Islam and Muslims, and encourage dialog between those who oppose and support the building of the community center. Participants were free to choose whatever media they felt would be most effective in communicating their ideas. Here are the agencies’ visions and the summaries of their strategic thinking, in their own words.


(I like this one where the entire U.S. is marked as Ground Zero which seems designed to do two things: Make it feel like the U.S. is under attack, and to more strongly associate Muslims with Sept. 11th)
Gotham says, So the question shifts from should Park51 be built to where should Park51 be built? How far is far enough? How close is too close? It becomes subjective and complex. A reframing of “Ground Zero” is necessary in order for both sides to see the big picture.  On 9/11, Islamic extremists attacked something much larger than the WTC; they attacked a state of mind. They attacked what America stands for. Our freedom. Our ideology. Our beliefs. On those grounds, Ground Zero is really everywhere Americans and their ideals are. It’s an omnipresent place and space.

In order to stay true to what America stands for, we need to encourage freedom of religion wherever that may be. By repositioning the issue, we will encourage a fresh, constructive and productive dialog. One tactical idea: we could hold a nationwide event that demonstrates “Ground Zero is everywhere.” Participants across the country would raise two lights into the night sky, just like the two beams that rise from Ground Zero.

A new perspective will illuminate a difference between terrorists and Muslims while communicating the importance of tolerance and freedom for everyone in this country. (CRAP. All it says is, if we continue to allow Muslims to infiltrate this country, every city will have lights in the sky in remembrance of an attack by Muslim terrorists.)

ARNOLD Agency, Boston

(This is just too precious, truly an embarrassment as an ad campaign. Then again, they are in Boston, the heartland of far left bleeding heart liberalism)

ARNOLD says, We are more alike than different. Religion is a hot, polarizing topic. So in order to make people more tolerant of people with different religious beliefs, let’s not talk about religion. Let’s not talk about what separates us, but rather what we share in common. We are all humans. And human nature applies to us all. If a Muslim stubs his toe on the kitchen table leg, he winces in pain. If a Catholic or Protestant stubs his toe on the kitchen table leg, he winces in pain.

So the idea is to show many ways in which we are all alike as people, the quirkier and more everyday examples, the better. (For example, the text on the ad shown below reads, “Jay is Catholic. Hassan is Muslim. Both are terrible drummers.”)


(This campaign is too stupid for words. A campaign to sign up Muslims as terrorists in order to show just how few of them actually sympathize with terrorism. Figures this dumb idea would be from San Fransicko)

AGENCY TWO FIFTEEN decided to ask Muslims Who wants to be a terrorist? The opposition to the Muslim community center and mosque being considered in downtown Manhattan is based on a purely visceral reaction that condemns an entire religion for the horrible acts on Sept. 11. 

To face this head on, we’d actually go out and try to recruit Muslims in the U.S. for a terrorist mission — and prove just how impossible the task is. We’d start by setting up booths countrywide displaying suicide bomb belts and terrorist instructional videos. We’d recruit on the street, post pull-tab flyers at local mosques-and ultimately run a live telethon on NY1, with a live counter of just how many Muslim terrorists we’ve recruited. All literature and flyers would drive to, where more information and an online sign-up would be available.


CAMPBELL-EWALD calls this theme ‘A Common Ground.’ Our idea is to create a dialog among the opposing sides of the Park51 project. We propose creating a Web site,, where people can air their views and get the truth about the issues surrounding Park51, the Islamic religion or Muslims themselves. 

We would use provocative animated Web banners, viral videos and OOH postings to get people to come to the Web site. We’d host time-controlled debates on the issues. We’d offer up a “chatroulette” exchange, where we pair people from differing sides of the issue so we could watch the exchange happen. We’d post the outcomes of the debates not only on the Web site, but maybe on a video board near the Ground Zero Victory mosque. (Well, at least I like the outcome on this one below)

We’ll use a mnemonic device: two hands that flash peace signs that come together to form a “Z” for Zero Tolerance for Intolerance. We can virally plant the sign in music videos, on YouTube and with celebrities — getting them to flash it for us. (Of course the liberals never miss an opportunity to inject race into the issue, even though Islam is not a race)

We’d hold a Zero Tolerance for Intolerance concert at Ground Zero to bring Muslims and non-Muslims together to help find common ground. Because finding similarities gives you something to build on. And that’s the first step to understanding.(I guess they haven’t heard that music is not allowed in Islam?)


CONVERSATION says, The Ground Zero Victory mosque debate comes at an interesting time in American history. America is a proud nation with citizens that openly share this pride. We are also a diverse nation, a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, and religions. But what happens when the melting pot boils over, threatening to challenge the principles that America was built on?  (A redesign of the American flag with an Islamic crescent on it is a concept guaranteed to infuriate veterans, their families, and most of America) 

Conversation’s campaign challenges Americans to look closely at how the project can actually enrich our nation. By exercising tolerance, we will become a stronger nation that continues the rich tradition of acceptance and peace that our country was built upon. Our executions aim to inform and move people, bringing everyone together to realize that we can all co-exist peacefully. In the design of these ads, we wanted to maintain a personal and very human approach, using the colors of the American flag as a guide. Employing familiar images and shapes, we chose to keep the messaging simple, yet still very powerful. The result is a message of peace that can be universally understood and spread. (Oh right, a peace symbol, how original,. But there is nothing peaceful about Islam, especially when it is combined with an American flag where it means war)

(The design below is both a rip-off a CAIR campaign and a reminder of Keith ‘Crocodile Tears’ Ellison’s sobbing speech at Rep. Peter King’s congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslims in America, where Ellison made a teary-eyed tribute to the one Muslim first responder who died on 9/11)

I am in the advertising business and none of this drivel would have gotten past my desk.