‘You cannot bullshit them’: An insider’s guide to advertising in Israel

This is Global Creative series highlights the nuances of the advertising scene in different parts of the world through the eyes of an established local creative.

The tremendous growth of Israel’s tech sector in recent years has earned the country the nicknames “Startup Nation” and “Silicon Wadi.” But the tech boom has also had a huge impact on the nation’s advertising industry, according to Eran Nir, creative director at BBR Saatchi & Saatchi.

Some hallmarks of the industry: There’s growing connection between advertising agencies, startups and technology companies, which are increasingly working together on solutions for brands. There are also a lot more women within agency walls. And as with just about everywhere else, comedy is king.

Here’s a deeper look at the nuances of Israeli advertising, according to Nir.

Where tech gets creative
The advertising landscape in Israel has undergone a considerable shift over the last two years — something Nir considers to be a direct impact of the burgeoning tech sector there. Marketers and agencies are increasingly ditching traditional mediums like print, outdoor and TV in favor of partnering with startups and tech companies.

Zuzu, for example, is a personal training app that BBR Saatchi & Saatchi developed along with Mint, a brand utility company, for Turkish coffee brand Elite Coffee. Realizing that Turkish coffee improves sports performance, the brand took the opportunity to broaden its appeal and target the sports community and, in turn, developed a free virtual coach that provides users with reminders and motivators.

“The hallmark of Israeli creativity today is the perfect combination of the Holy Trinity: innovation, technology and creativity,” said Nir. “There are a lot of startup companies here — it would be very foolish for us to not take advantage of that.”

‘Rugged and skeptical’ … and not very PC
According to Nir, a volatile political climate has made Israelis more “rugged and skeptical” of traditional advertising. “You cannot bullshit them by shouting, ‘My product is better’ or ‘My coffee is tastier,’” he said. “A lot of the work is therefore guided by deep consumer insights into what’s ‘authentic.'”

For instance, this Web series by Huggies targeting expectant fathers managed to touch a chord and provide valuable information.

Alternatively, advertisements that have a sense of humor — especially a self-deprecating humor — also resonate among consumers. This ad by Unilever for Branflakes is a spoof of most weight-loss cereal commercials for women, featuring a’plus-sized’ drag queen named Denise. (It is worth noting that the tolerance for political incorrectness in Israel is perhaps higher than it is in the States.)

It takes a village.
Israel is a small market, and most advertising agencies are concentrated in Tel Aviv. A string of global ad agencies — including McCann, FCB, JWT and Saatchi & Saatchi — have footprints in the Israeli market, but there is still great camaraderie between them. In fact, according to Nir, it is also not uncommon for creative directors to consult each other on potential employees.

“We refer to our industry as a small neighborhood — where everyone knows everyone,” he said. “One day, you are working at TBWA, and the next day you might find yourself at Y&R in a building on the other side of the road.”

Changing the ratio.
Advertising in Israel, much like elsewhere, was for decades largely the domain of men. But that is changing, according to Nir, with more and more women in creative and other teams.

“In creative, the stereotype was that women are not funny, but it’s definitely not Mad Men-like anymore,” he said. “Everyone is doing everything.”

While men still dominate the executive ranks, some women are taking steps to improve the ratio. Hana Rado, COO at McCann Tel Aviv, has spearheaded a service called Persona, which aims to increase the visibility of women in the field by having them placed on more panels on the conference circuit.

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