Egypt’s National Democratic Party knows how to advertise

The ruling Egyptian National Democratic Party is having major success selling the government’s new tax policies because of a slick new advertising approach that began during the Egyptian presidential elections in 2005. MENASSAT’s Ahmad Rajab takes a look at the roots of the NDP’s American-style ad campaign, and why it is having such success.
Mubarak Election Rally
Political rallies in support of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (right)

CAIRO, March 24, 2009 (MENASSAT) – Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) is winning the battle of public opinion over the government’s new tax policies.

Using advertising methods it has honed since the 2005 presidential elections, the NDP’s slick new advertising approach has been credited with helping the Egyptian treasury reclaim roughly £E 3 billion ($532,000) in added taxes this year.

Surprisingly, the campaign is succeeding when the NDP and its public face – President Hosni Mubarak – are fairing poorly in public opinion polls.

Past history

Then and now, the NDP is drawing on the advice of advertising and media experts to sell government policies.

Using traditional ad spaces like banners and billboards to help complement the use of new ad spaces such as short sms-phone messages and internet announcements, the Egyptian public has been fed a steady diet of pro-NDP messages for the last 4 years.

In 2005, the NDP assembled a team of pro-regime journalists and media experts to supervise the public relations efforts for Mubarak’s election campaign.

The group included the co-editor in chief of Al-Alam Al-Youm (The World Today) newspaper, Lamis Al-Hadidi and Mohammad Kamal, an active member of the Policies Committee in the NDP and close aid to the president’s son Gamal Mubarak. 

In 2005, the NDP teamed with the Egyptian Arab Advertising Agency to boost Mubarak’s public approval ratings immediately ahead of elections - scoring a huge hit by contracting the private satellite TV broadcaster Dream TV to broadcast Mubarak’s election speeches and hiring Egyptian director Marwan Wahid Hamed to direct a highly-watched TV interview with news anchor Imad Eddine Adid.

And in TV and billboard ads throughout the 2005 election campaign, the NDP helped brand Mubarak as a man of the people – often showing him in advertisements without his trademark suit and tie, wearing casual shirts and shuffling papers like an average civil-service worker.

In the end, Mubarak won 87% of the votes in the 2005 election, although critics of the regime are quick to point out that the election outcome was predictable.

Tax campaign

Tareq Nour, the advertising executive in charge of the finance ministry’s 2009 tax campaign said the general consensus was that the NDP’s new advertising philosophy was working.

Nour’s campaign has built itself on the past success of the 2007 and 2008 tax campaigns run by Mohammad Al-Saidi, an political insider that also helped run Mubarak’s 2005 presidential campaign.

Al-Saidi also ran the NDP’s 2007 Al-Shoura (Parliamentary) election campaign that drew on fear tactics to attract voters to the NDP, using threatening ads that included hundreds of horrific images inside and outside of Egypt as a hint of what could happen if the people failed to elect the NDP.

In contrast, the 2009 tax campaign ads have been light-hearted and humorous.

The ad’s main character played by Egyptian actor Mohammad Shuman, who describes the government as a “hen which can’t let go of its chicks” – a phrase cooked up by the finance minister, Youssef Boutros Ghali to contrast the sense of public alienation with the Mubarak regime.

Mohammad Shuman - lead actor in the last round of the NDP tax revenue campaigns.

While Shuman decided not to renew his ad contract because he was unhappy with the government’s ad campaign, the tax ads helped raise an additional £E 3 billion ($533 million) in tax revenues, which has risen from £E 4 billion ($710 million) in 2007 to £E 10 billion ($178 million) in 2009.

Advertising no longer American-style

Amro Khafaji, former manager of Dream TV, told MENASSAT that the NDP’s direction towards this kind of advertising was born from their failure to convince the audiences of the quality of their past political products and ideas to reform the society. 

He said the NDP’s approach takes into account the fact that the approach for marketing political products is different that what is necessary to create loyalty to a consumer good.

Still, marketing and advertisement professor at the American University of Cairo, Hussein Amin called the NDP’s advertising efforts “unique” in Egyptian media.

Amin who was nominated and turned down a government appointment to the Policies Committee in the interior ministry in 2005 described the 4 year PR campaign as an American-type media success story.

Lola Zaqlama, head of RADA, a research organization for marketing and public relations said, “The available agencies working on the NDP campaign(s) have reached a professional level in the marketing of political ideas.”

“It is clear in the success of the NDP campaigns advertised in the past few years, that they’ve managed to create a mental image of the political product.” 

In the end, head of the Egyptian Policies Committee Sami Abdul-Aziz said that the NDP campaigns illustrate that the slick politically savy ad campaign is no longer simply the domain of the Americans. 

Abdul Aziz says that Egypt has now entered “the power of conviction” period through adverstising and not through force, suggesting that other Egyptian political parties are likely to push the NDP in the future with their own intelligent political ad products - although RADA's Zaqlama told MENASSAT she doubts whether other political parties would be allowed by the government to run such elaborate campaigns.