Saudis Unhappy About Israeli Nissan Ad

By Brendan Moore

08.11.2008

Some Saudi Arabians are very unhappy about a Nissan television ad shown in Israel that they say portrayed Saudis as violent, grasping and profane.

The Israeli television ad campaign in question showed an Arab man, dressed in the robes ubiquitous in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, physically attacking and loudly excoriating a Nissan car for being too fuel-efficient. This incensed some Saudis so much that they called for a boycott of Nissan. This, in turn, got Nissan’s attention pretty quickly.

Nissan is Number 2 in sales in the country of Saudi Arabia, with 184,000 Nissans sold in the country last year. Nissan sold their first vehicle in Saudi Arabia way back in 1957. It is by far Nissan’s biggest market in the Middle East. The country where the ad ran, Israel, by comparison, purchased around 2700 Nissans last year. It’s not difficult to see where Nissan was going to come out on this issue.

Hannah Suwaid, an Arab member of Israel’s Knesset, said, “[The commercial] portrays the Arab as a person who is short-tempered, aggressive, and foul-mouthed.”

Mr. Suwaid complained loudly to the Israeli Broadcasting Authority in Israel, and to Nissan in Japan. The regional television news power, the Saudi-owned MBC pan-Arab satellite channel, then did a feature story about the ad in their evening news segment. The MBC piece interviewed a Saudi representative who stated that all the Arabs across the whole Persian Gulf region might boycott Nissan. He demanded a formal company apology. The fuse was now lit, and several influential Saudi and Arab websites and newspapers subsequently urged Arab and Muslim car dealers to suspend business with Nissan for insulting Arabs and Arab culture. Arab consumers reacted accordingly, with everything from irritation to outrage.

Nissan asked the Israeli agency to pull the ad, and they complied, although they said the spot was only scheduled to run for a short time anyway.

Nissan continues to lay low on the now-receding controversy, not commenting on it, and not admitting that it took any actions from a corporate level to have the ad pulled, but they have to feel good about putting out a small fire that could have grown into something much larger in the culturally hyper-sensitive Middle East.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Those Saudis just don’t seem to have any sense of humor, do they? Although they probably do get a chuckle out of the current administration’s lip service to curing our “addiction to oil”. That probably gets a lot of laughs.

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