NEW YORK (May. 5)
Many Jewish organizations are failing to enlist young Jews to advocate for Israel because their marketing approaches are outdated, a new report warns.
The report by pollster Frank Luntz, Israel in the Age of Eminem, warns that Jewish groups face a “communications crisis” because their efforts do not appeal to the 80 percent of young people whose Jewish identity and Zionist attachment remains marginal at best.
Many ad and marketing campaigns aimed at stirring pro-Israel support among young Jews are “ineffective at best and occasionally even alienating.” Luntz said.
But the report, subtitled “a creative brief for Israel messaging,” outlines a “Ten Commandments” of marketing that Luntz says Jewish organizations should adopt if they hope to win over young Jews and stir pro-Israel activism.
Gary Wexler, founder of Passion Marketing in Los Angeles, about 40 percent of whose clients are Jewish nonprofits, calls the report’s findings “Marketing 101” for Jewish professionals.
“It’s no secret that the Jewish community talks to itself,” he said.
Funded by a $50,000 grant from the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, the report arose from focus groups Luntz led last year in which he tested the impact of print ads about Israel on young Jews.
Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, said even the report’s reference to rap singer Eminem often reveals a stunning ignorance of pop culture among Jewish leaders.
“Too many American Jewish decision-makers, when they hear the name of this report, think we’re talking about a candy,” Solomon said.
Released last week, the report follows a major marketing campaign by Luntz, a GOP strategist, along with Democratic strategist Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi, aimed at showing how America and Israel share many bedrock values.
That earlier effort was geared toward senior-level Jewish policy-makers and general public opinion-movers. The Eminem report attempted to use a similar marketing approach to reshape efforts aimed at young Jews, Solomon said.
“What we are trying to do is change organizational behaviors,” he added. “Organizations need to listen to young people first.”
What the report hears young Jews saying sounds familiar.
The report concludes that most young American Jews are religiously ignorant, and identify as Americans first and cultural Jews second.
That echoes earlier studies, such as a landmark survey of incoming Jewish college freshmen by UCLA and Hillel that was released last year.
That study gave annual surveys to 235,000 Jewish first-year students between 1971 and 1999. Only 44 percent of them said it is important to keep up with current political events, down from some 60 percent when the survey began.
Most young Jews, meanwhile, feel less spiritual and attend fewer services than their non-Jewish peers, the UCLA- Hillel survey found.
Yet this latest report says Jewish groups are marketing Israel based on their own Zionist sensibilities shaped by the 1967 Six-Day War, which does not speak to a generation of young people whose views of Israel have been marked by the Palestinian intifada and the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Young Jews today know little about Israel and don’t feel connected to the Jewish state, Luntz said.
Furthermore, they “resist anything they see as ‘group think,’ and reserve the right to question” Israeli policies.
To measure the impact of pro-Israel ads, Luntz convened focus groups of Jews aged 18-29. He showed them print ads, posters, flyers and other literature culled from 120 different Jewish groups and campaigns.
Luntz crafted his “Ten Commandments” from those sessions, urging such marketing tactics as:
Don’t clutter ads with many words, because younger people “read virtually nothing;”
Many younger people have a “been there, done that” attitude and are inundated with advertising. They require a message that “challenges the conventional wisdom” with irony, creativity and relevance;
A Web address will increase the likelihood that young Jews will seek more information about an ad.
Young Jews also would respond to pro-Israel messages “beyond advertising” if they were embedded in pop-culture media such as dance clubs, comedy tours, monologue-style theater performances such as “The Vagina Monologues,” Web sites, Weblogs and comic books, Luntz said.
One group whose ads received mixed reviews was the American Jewish Committee.
A year ago, the AJCommittee launched an offshoot called Students for Peace in the Middle East, whose own ads drew a thumbs-up from the Luntz report.
The student group launched a Web site called TakeActionNow.org that offers student tips on pro-Israel advocacy, Bandler said.
“We’re all trying to come up with ideas to reach out and engage younger members of our community,” he said.
One group whose efforts brought a thumbs-down was the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, which trained students at the University of California at Berkeley in political advocacy as part of its national political leadership development program.
An ad by a group at the school trained by AIPAC trumpeted an anti-terrorism petition with hundreds of names in small print. The focus group deemed that kind of approach ineffective.
But AIPAC defended the ad’s results.
“To date AIPAC activists have gathered over 55,000 student signatures, and we believe that success speaks for itself,” spokeswoman Rebecca Dinar said.
“Our decades of experience on the campus has taught us that ads don’t engage people, people engage people,” she added.
“Even the most gripping advertisements will never engage young people as effectively as grassroots, retail organizing.”
Still, officials at Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, which deals with a younger Jewish demographic, urged Jewish groups to carefully consider the Luntz recommendations.
Jewish groups “should be aware of the atmosphere on campus,” Hillel spokesman Jeff Rubin said. “They shouldn’t try to parachute in messages that may work off campus.”
Yet Wexler of Passion Marketing cautioned that Jewish groups should not simply make their Israel marketing more “hip” in order to reach young Jews.
“Indeed, there is a huge nerd factor in Jewish involvement. Hillel knows this and they fight it all the time,” he said. “On the other hand, hip is here today, gone tomorrow.”
Wexler also maintains that advertising remains “the most insignificant part” of winning results in nonprofit marketing.
“The most substantial part of the mix is about education and community organization, about collaboration between organizations,” he said.
However, Wexler — whose clients include the Bronfman Philanthropies — hailed the report as a “first step” in a necessary debate about pro-Israel marketing.
“We cannot be afraid to agree or disagree with the report,” he said. “This is part of a healthy debate that needs to take place.”