Knesset Ads on Israel's Pullout From Gaza Backfired, Survey Shows

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Israeli soldiers close the gate after troops left the Gaza Strip through the Kissufim Crossing into Israel following the settlement pullout early on Monday, September 12, 2005.
Israeli soldiers close the gate after troops left the Gaza Strip through the Kissufim Crossing into Israel following the settlement pullout early on Monday, September 12, 2005.Credit: AP

The Government Advertising Agency on Wednesday recommended that the Knesset reduce its use of a promotional video on the approval of 2005 Gaza disengagement, due to the negative reactions it has received from the public. The clip was broadcast on television as part of the country’s 70th anniversary celebrations in 2018, and in any case, there are no plans for now to reuse it soon.

The video was part of a campaign that showed historic moments of the Knesset, in an attempt to improve the legislature’s image. “To the extent that the campaign is continued, it is recommended to promote the films on [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat’s visit and on the Yom Kippur War, and less so the clip on the disengagement,” states the conclusions of a document on the PR campaign presented to the Knesset by the ad agency, which is commonly known by its Hebrew acronym Lapam.

The video in question.Credit: Knesset

“The video of the disengagement changed opinions [of the Knesset] for the worse in a stronger way that the other two videos did,” said the ad agency.

The recommendations were the result of a survey conducted by the government ad agency and the private marketing research company Sapio Research and Development. The survey found that 21 percent of respondents changed their opinions about the Knesset for the worse after watching the disengagement video, compared to 13 percent who had a more favorable view afterword. The video on Sadat’s visit affected 20 percent of those surveyed in a positive way, while only 8 percent had a negative reaction.

The Knesset spent 3.8 million shekels ($1.1 million) on the wide-scale campaign, which ran dozens of times on television, just before the main nightly news programs, over a two-and-a-half-month period two years ago. The goal was to improve the Knesset’s image by showing the public the positive aspects of its work.

The videos showed the public the Knesset’s involvement in a number of historic events, including the reparations agreement with Germany, the Eichmann trial, Yom Kippur War and the repercussions of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. Even though the original campaign ended in 2018, the videos can still be seen on the Knesset website.

The Knesset’s professional staff considered the campaign a success – even though the survey revealed the legislature’s dire image among the Israeli public. About 50 percent of those surveyed said they did not value the work of the Knesset, with various levels of disapproval. Only 2 percent to 4 percent of those asked said they “respect very much” the work of the Knesset, while 21 percent to 24 percent said they “respect” the way the Knesset operates.

PR professionals have said the campaign was important, but its effectiveness was limited to the period when it ran. The government ad agency listed a number of events that occurred during the PR campaign and cast a shadow on the Knesset’s image: The criminal investigations of Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation from the cabinet, a misogynistic comment from MK Elazar Stern about Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, and a Facebook post by MK Oren Hazan about the marriage of Arab television anchor Lucy Aharish to Jewish actor Tsachi Halevi.

The ad agency’s research was obtained from the Knesset under the Freedom of Information Law by the nonprofit Hatzlacha – The Movement for the Promotion of a Fair Society. Elad Man, the legal adviser to the organization, said the exposure of the documents concerning PR campaigns, such as in this case, exemplifies the need and importance of transparency and providing information to the public.

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