Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Corporate mentality : capitalising on masculinity and male chauvinism in Egypt

  • Wednesday, 1 September 2010
  • Fouad GM
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  • A new advertising rampage kicked off on Egyptian TV and radio with the start of Ramadan earlier in August. As usual, Egypt's business tycoons and their advertising and marketing agents spend the months in the run-up for Ramadan preparing very innovative and, indeed, sexy advertisements aimed at exploiting a Muslim's abstention from food and drink throughout the day to market their products. From cell phones, to food, beverages, holiday packages and the rest. The coolest, and indeed the most expensive of these advertising campaigns this Ramadan has been the 1-minute advertisement for Etisilat, Egypt's third mobile phone provider. The 1-minute advertisement cost Etisalat several million USD from celebrity fares, air time and production.

    Guess what though, I'm not going to be discussing the sickening consumerism of the holy Muslim fast which practically undoes the whole raison d'être of Ramadan. I think Zeinobia did a great job describing it two of her blogs "The Language of Numbers : Ramadan's Production" and "The Latest Ramadan trends : Food Supplies On Instalment". I'll be discussing the advertisement campaign for non-alcoholic beer, Birell. The campaign is a second wave in their two-year-old "Be a Man" campaign which aired on Egyptian TV in Ramadan 2008.

    The campaign disgustingly capitalises on the male chauvinism and patriarchal 'instincts' of Egyptian society to promote the non-alcoholic beverage. Very reminiscent to the male chauvinism associated with drinking 'a pint of lager' or 'ale' vis-à-vis the femininity and refinement of drinking wine in English culture perhaps?

    Below are two examples of the "Be a Man" advertisements, the first dating back to 2008, the latter to the 2010 'shrink' series.

    "A girl's personality is the last thing to look to, be a man!"
    from "Birell: Be a Man" (2008)

    "Put your ankle on your rokba (knee), and be more of a man than Drogba"
    from "Birell therapy: Be a Man" (2010)

    Two years on, the "Be a Man" phenomenon seems to be all the more 'in' amongst the cooler Egyptians. For some, it's simply "cool" and reflects their mentality. For others, who work in marketing and advertisement, it's utter ingenious! It reflects the perfect understanding of the consumer by the marketing campaigner and illustrates their success at addressing them in as cool as a way as they'd like.

    For a social scientist, leftists and their like, it's slightly different: it reflects the corporate world's parasitic capitalisation on the blameworthy habits of society. In fact, for some (like myself), it illustrates how the corporate world recreates these social habits to generate more profits, market more products and penetrate a larger consumer base.

    This article, by my friend and former colleague Sarah Carr, dates back to December 2008 outlining the debate the Birell advertisement campaign triggered on the Egyptian blogosphere in 2008. Here's what Sarah had to say two years ago.

    By Sarah Carr
    First Published: December 12, 2008

    CAIRO: An advertising campaign which encourages men to drink a non-alcoholic beer to “be a man” has triggered waves within the Egyptian blogosphere.

    The series of adverts created by Leo Burnett for Birell show men engaging in various types of stereotypically non-masculine behavior such as using a drinks coaster, chastising a friend for burping violently at high volume, and expressing enthusiasm about a wedding where Tamer Hosny will perform.

    2 Responses to “Corporate mentality : capitalising on masculinity and male chauvinism in Egypt”

    Anonymous said...
    2 September 2010 at 01:53

    sexy advertisements aimed at exploiting a Muslim's abstention from food and drink throughout the day to market their products??

    I think this one went too far. What is the interest of corporates in "exploiting" the fast?!

    The Birell ad. is detestable indeed. It is a reflection of how the Egyptian mentality works rather than anything else.

    Ahmed said...
    2 September 2010 at 07:20

    I agree. These type of commercials do not only exploit the existing market (which some might argue is a benign behavior), but preserves the existence and promotes the expansion of such market. A great example of capitalist social engineering.

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