OpinionAntisemitism

Can Super Bowl ads reduce antisemitism and increase pro-Israeli sentiment?

The Israeli government and Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism took to the airwaves to try and change the way people feel.

Football field. Credit: Nomad369/Pixabay.
Football field. Credit: Nomad369/Pixabay.
Jon Bond. Credit: Courtesy.
Jon Bond
Jon Bond is co-founder of The Heart Monitors, a strategy and insight consultancy focused on the idea that feelings are the new currency that drives sharing, identification and adhesion to social messages.
Robin Lemberg. Credit: Courtesy.
Robin Lemberg
Robin Lemberg is co-founder of The Heart Monitors, a strategy and insight consultancy focused on the idea that feelings are the new currency that drives sharing, identification and adhesion to social messages.

Apparently, the answer is yes.

Israel has had a brand problem, with the facts and odds stacked against them. This was made all the more clear with the start of the war against the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip following the atrocities committed in southern Israel on Oct. 7. Initial empathy for the murder of 1,200 people and the kidnapping of civilians soon flipped in favor towards the Palestinian population of Gaza, as seen in worldwide rallies, protests and even violent incidents.

The Heart Monitors is a new type of strategy and insight consultancy focused on the idea that feelings are the new currency that drives sharing, identification and adhesion to certain social messages.

It found that a full one in three (33%) of Gen Pop and 31% of Gen Z believe that Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza is “apartheid,” while 25% of Gen Z believes that both the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas are “terrorist” organizations.

For more than 33% of Gen Z, calling for the end of Israel and denying the Holocaust is not antisemitic. Far worse: A full 77% of Gen Pop and Gen Z do not see boycotting Jewish establishments and protesting as manifestations of antisemitism, saying they have to do with the State of Israel and not the Jewish people.

That said, the Israeli government and Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism took to the airwaves to try and change the way people feel.

The Heart Monitors has been looking at the feelings behind the facts in the Hamas-Israel conflict with quick quant and qual pulsing, fielding more than 300 studies among the Gen Pop, Gen Z, Gen Z Jews and Gen Z Muslims since Jan. 1.

We took a quick look at how the general population and Gen Z felt after viewing the two Kraft ads: the one featuring Tony, the touching scene of a Good Samaritan whitewashing antisemitic messaging from his neighbor’s garage door; and the Clarence Jones spot that references Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for equal rights among all people, including Jews; in addition to the two hostage-related ads produced by the Israeli government (dads) and (empty seat). We asked people to assess them across 12 feelings, describing why they had those feelings and how these feelings would change their behavior or opinion.

While a small number of people among Gen Pop and Gen Z cited numbness or indifference to the situation, other feelings cited included sympathy, inspiration, sadness and shock, resonating in varying degrees.

Sympathy

“Dads” won the sympathy award hands down with the General Public, which is consistent with our tracking of the power of the “Bring Them Home Now” message and campaign with both Gen Pop and Gen Z. For most, this war is about all people being the losers, the victims regardless of side. Everyone has a dad, so the spot made the hostage situation relevant to a broader group other than Jews. It personalized the hostage crisis, making the victims relatable vs statistics.

Gen Z, as we know, has a contrarian view of the war and is much more staunchly anti-Israel. For them, “Tony” evoked the highest sympathy rating among all ads likely because it spoke more broadly about hate and involved everyday people—neighbors supporting each other even though they are different and people reacting to the protection of the little girl from seeing hate. It evokes the idea of harmony, which is certainly an aspiration for some.

Inspiration

The Jones ad, hands down, wins for most inspiring for both Gen Z and Gen Pop with 70% agreeing before the Super Bowl that evoking MLK made sense in relation to antisemitism. Not surprisingly, it was more inspiring to the general population, as Gen Z views history as somewhat irrelevant and doesn’t understand the connection of MLK to the Jewish community. It seems to have struck just the right chord between sympathy and inspiration.

For us, the Kansas City Chiefs were not the only winners of the Super Bowl. Kraft and the Israeli government were.

All of the Kraft ads produced significant (70%-plus) scores when it came to the question of whether the spot would increase a person’s chance of standing up to Jewish hate, with Tony edging out all four (which ironically did not air over Super Bowl weekend). And that’s the most important statistic.

As for the question of whether sentiment shifted as far as Israel and its military actions against Hamas in Gaza were justified due to the Oct. 7 atrocities and taking of hostages, we asked the same question in January. We found modest but important improvements among the general population (59% up from 55% for the stadium ad and a 3% lift for the dad ad). The big news was the significant improvement among Gen Z from a smaller agreement of 38% (in January) that those actions were justified to more than 44% for each ad in February.

Sadness

“Empty Seat” was the saddest for Gen Pop, though evoked equal levels of sympathy. This isn’t surprising since the message was a missing family member or special person, not simply a father, which is highly relatable to Gen Z.

Now what?

How can the Israeli brand and the Jewish brand co-exist to symbiotically improve their respective images? What is the right combination of feelings for which audience to inspire action?

Will this be the spark that Gen Z needs to be more open-minded? Did we connect with the right feelings to inspire action?

Is this initiative the catalyst for change the Jewish world needs? It’s going in the right direction, but this is a long-term war, and these are short-term gains.

To do this, we believe that the Jewish world needs to apply a coordinated, concerted, and united approach if they are to win the war for hearts and minds, especially with Gen Z focusing on the feelings behind the facts. Facts alone won’t win the propaganda war; we need to connect the right feelings with the right audiences at the right times to change behaviors. Most of all, they need to unite to have better-coordinated efforts and ultimately one voice.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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