‘Dead journalists’ in ad campaign

By Joe Kovacs

Will Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Geraldo Rivera soon appear ready for the morgue? It depends if they take part in a shocking new ad campaign.

French journalist Christine Ockrent feigns death in ad.

Graphic images of journalists with bullet holes to the head and slit throats are likely to hit the U.S. market soon in the wake of a gruesome series of spots in France.

The group Reporters Without Borders has created commercials depicting famous French journalists as murder victims to highlight the dangers journalists face and the need to defend freedom of the press.

“As soon as I saw it, I thought, ‘We’ve got to make it travel,'” Bob Isherwood, worldwide creative director at Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi told Advertising Age. “I’m going to see if we can’t run it globally. It’s a very powerful idea. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to run it in the U.S., with U.S. journalists, and I’m sure people would do it.”

Three graphic print and poster ads were created by Saatchi’s Paris office for the initial run, all tagged with the caption: “Start fighting for press freedom before you lose it.”

One portrays French TV journalist Christine Ockrent with a bullet hole in her forehead, while the other two depict Emmanuel Chain and Guillaume Durand as slashing and shooting victims.

Isherwood said the campaign, which debuted in January, had a huge impact in France. He told Advertising Age he’s putting the campaign on the agenda to be discussed at Saatchi’s worldwide creative board meeting slated for the end of this month in Brazil.

Just this week, four Western journalists held captive in a notorious Baghdad prison for alleged spying were granted their freedom.

“There were beatings and torture going on outside our cells, in the corridor,” Matthew McAllester of Newsday said upon his release.

“Other inmates hobbled around, apparently because the soles of their feet had been burned or otherwise injured. We thought we were going to be killed at any moment.”