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October 10th, 2001 Chris Lydgate | News Stories
 

Operation Branding Patriotism

Local ad gurus weigh in on the propaganda war.

     
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Last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld scuttled "Operation Infinite Justice"--deemed potentially offensive to Muslims--and launched a new codename for the Bush Administration's crackdown on terrorism: Operation Enduring Freedom.

Military codenames have a long history: the German Army's 1918 spring offensive on the Eastern Front was known as Operation Michael. But codenames didn't really enter the vernacular until World War II, whose military operations bequeathed a dozen household words: Overlord, Sealion, the Manhattan Project, Ultra.

Although military monikers were initially adopted to confuse the enemy, politicians soon realized their propaganda value. Hitler dubbed his attack on the Soviet Union "Operation Barbarossa" for a medieval German conqueror. President Bush (senior) christened the assault on Kuwait "Desert Storm" to imply insuperable military superiority. Now, it seems, codenames are selected primarily for PR purposes.

How does Enduring Freedom stack up against historic forerunners? WW asked a trio of local ad gurus to rate the name on a 10-point scale (where 1 equals wretched, and 10 outstanding), provide a professional critique, and suggest alternatives.

DYLAN LEE
Copywriter, Wieden+Kennedy
Score: 3/10

Critique: My initial reaction was "yeeeugh!" It doesn't roll off the tongue. It's unnatural. You have to sit and think about it--what does that mean? It's an odd combination. Desert Storm was easy to say. It makes sense. Storm is a nice euphemism. But Enduring Freedom--I don't know what that means. It's pretentious; it's showy.... The name goes in one ear and out the other. It doesn't resonate. Freedom is such a big word with so many connotations. I'm not saying you shouldn't use it, but Operation Freedom is odd, and the Enduring doesn't help.

Suggestion: Operation Free World. It gives you something solid to hold on to. It includes everyone. It's a lot simpler and easier to remember.

HART RUSEN
Associate creative director, Moffatt/Rosenthal
Score: 5/10

Critique: The idea that every act or response needs a name like "the Thrilla in Manila" is kind of comical. But they want something that looks good on the news. Every night you see "America Under Siege," "America Mourns." Enduring Freedom? It's kind of a throwaway. It's hard to get very emotional about it. It sounds like a Hallmark card.

Suggestion: Just call it the War on Terrorism. The less marketing hype and sensationalism, the better.

GEOFF ROGERS
Copywriter, Nerve Advertising
Score: 3/10

Critique: Infinite Justice sounds overblown, grandiloquent, like a Steven Seagal movie. Operation Just Cause was OK; Operation Urgent Fury had a nice assonance and slant rhyme. I don't think Enduring Freedom is very effective. As Americans, we've heard the word "freedom" so many times it's nearly meaningless. I think you want a phrase that means something tangible.

Suggestion(s): Operation Safeguard, Operation Defiance, Operation Righteous Vengeance, Operation Whack-a-Mole, and Operation Bring
da Ruckus (props to Wu Tang Clan).

 
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