Politics: A US company uses Hollywood celebrities to promote the Saudis

To help Saudi Arabia restore its image, Edelman recommended a mix of celebrities, music festivals and comedy shows.

  • Bollywood star, Indian actress Priyanka Chopra.

The US Politico website said in a lengthy investigation that Saudi Arabia had used a US liaison company to improve its image. The website said that Saudi Arabia had a problem with its image, and that to solve this problem, one of the largest US liaison companies proposed an idea out of the box to improve the image: What if the Kingdom ‘ a whole week of the Daily Show of different places in the Kingdom? Or if an elite group of Hollywood stars came to the kingdom for a Golden Globe-like show, or if the Saudis entered into some kind of partnership with the Coachella Music Festival that attracts an influential Los Angeles audience each year ?

Comedian Trevor Noah is not going to do a segment of his program out of Jeddah, at least soon. But the possibility of that happening was just one of many proposals prepared by US-based PR giant Edelman as part of a larger effort to help the Saudis enter the kingdom as a new and visionary tourist and to market cultural destination.

In a 109-page proposal that was legally filed with the U.S. Department of Justice last June, Edelman proposed a five-year campaign called Search Beyond.

The campaign calls on Saudis to form partnerships with celebrities and seek opportunities that could lead to productions being filmed across the kingdom. The company has partnered with MTV and partnered with major companies. She also suggested that international celebrities such as Indian actress Priyanka Chopra and French DJ David Guetta be included on the campaign board.

The proposal, presented in Arabic and professionally translated for Politico, shows the extent to which the Saudis were willing to go to the “pariah” state status granted to them by President Joe Biden and others in the aftermath of the assassination and disintegration. wis. of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. U.S. intelligence said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the assassination. Biden visited Saudi Arabia last Friday, during which he met the crown prince and shook hands with a closed fist.

“Try [محمد بن سلمان] Whiten his reputation, whiten it by bringing celebrities to concerts, degrading him athletically by buying football clubs, and he can at least try to rehabilitate his reputation and image. ” He added, “I think President Biden’s journey is this kind of final complete rehabilitation.”

A spokesman for Edelman declined to provide further details to Politico about his deal with Saudi Arabia, for which they charge 2,953,125 riyals, or about $ 787,000, over a year. “Given a commitment to confidentiality with all our customers, we are unable to comment beyond publicly available information,” the spokesman said.

Fahad Nazer, a spokesman for the Saudi embassy in the United States, asked Politico to send his query to the government’s email, but he did not respond to questions there.

The website said the Saudis had spent large sums of money to improve their image internationally. Among the expenses will be a golf tournament hosted by clubs owned by, among others, former US President Donald Trump. The tournament was mocked as “sports washing”, or the use of sports to restore reputations, and raised eyebrows by urging US players Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and others to take part in its hefty prizes. The Saudi sovereign public investment fund has also bought British football team Newcastle United.

Politico noted that Edelman has a history of working in and with Saudi Arabia, including a campaign to promote professional networking company LinkedIn as a “platform to strengthen the voices of Saudi working women.” In 2020, Edelman registered with the U.S. Department of Justice to represent the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, a company that manufactures chemicals and other materials owned primarily by the Saudi government, in a deal worth about $ 6.7 million. She also did public relations work for NEOM, which is developing the new Saudi “smart city”.

The website added that the current contract could be one of the most lucrative among its partnerships with the Kingdom in recent years, according to FARA entries. Edelman, an agency of Daniel J. Edelman Holdings known as the United Entertainment Group, divided contract costs into four categories: research, planning and strategy, media relations and strategic partnerships, social media plan development and outreach, and client management and reporting. Within these categories, Edelman promised, among other things, to “monitor online conversations and media coverage to identify ‘friends of Saudi Arabia’ and its critics, ‘to’ initiate a relationship-building program with US-based media contacts, ‘and to present. “monthly customer meetings.” .

Politico said it is not uncommon for companies to help network between influencers and foreign governments.

Brian Lanza, a Mercury partner and former communications director for President Donald Trump’s transition team, said these kinds of partnerships between governments and celebrities are becoming more frequent. “You can not ignore money. Celebrities will make more money to promote a foreign government than to make a movie these days,” he added.

Ben Freeman, a researcher at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Government in the United States, noted that this is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has used popular culture in public relations. He referred to the meeting of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with the well-known TV presenter Oprah Winfrey and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on his visit to the United States years ago.

“This is the next step in the reputation laundering campaign, and whether it’s through sports or by linking to Hollywood – you name it – it’s something they’ve been trying to do for years,” Freeman said. “I think this lobbying campaign .. is a big part of” Why Biden was able to make this trip, and why it was possible at all. It’s because of people like Edelman and other people who work for the Saudis. “

The contract that Edelman signed with the Saudi government highlights the changing attitudes of American companies towards the Middle Eastern country.

The printing and communications company BGR stopped working with Saudi Arabia in 2018. But last May, the company finalized an agreement to represent the NGO, the Muslim World League, of which the kingdom is a “major contributor”. A number of other companies have also signed contracts with Saudi Arabia since leaving K Street in 2018 after Khashoggi’s assassination. Earlier this month, Edelman also filed documents with the U.S. Department of Justice, required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, to conduct PR for an advertising company operating in Riyadh for the Saudi Artificial Intelligence Agency. work. The value of the three-month contract is about $ 208,000.

Asked why the company had changed its position, Jeff Birnbaum, BGR spokesman, said the MWL is a non-governmental organization that is not part of the Saudi government, and has long been a proponent of religious tolerance. and opposition to religious extremism. ” He added that the company’s appointment had nothing to do with the visit. Pray for Saudi Arabia.

Edelman’s proposed “Search Beyond” campaign provides a window into how large PR firms believe that controversial customers can work with consumers of new media. In front of the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the company talks about the success of the campaign it has led, noting its ability to recruit celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Kylie Jenner and David Beckham to help the Empire State’s most famous building in a topic for cultural dialogue around the world.

In addition to focusing on the American audience, the campaign will also target markets in the Middle East, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and elsewhere. Influencers and social media use – be it Twitter, Instagram or other platforms – seem to be an essential part of this effort.

As part of the campaign, the kingdom will create a physical base of influencers, known as House Beyond, which will be broadcast from the site, likely on a network such as MTV.

Edelman said in his presentation that he is already working on launching a partnership with the international art festival Art Basel for inclusion in the Search Beyond campaign. She noted that she can do the same with international festivals like Coachella, Bonaro and the Southwest.

Yun Lee, a spokesman for Art Basel, said the organization “does not have any form of partnership established or under development with Edelman.”

A spokesman for MTV Entertainment said MTV and The Daily Show were not involved in the project but declined to comment when asked if the company was willing to work with Saudi Arabia.

Politico added that Edelman, in addition to Chopra and Gita, also proposed to collaborate with DJ Steve Aoki, actor Jet Li, Canadian actress Maitri Ramakrishnan, and social media influencer Olivia Culpo, a former Miss Universe who attended a music festival has. In Saudi Arabia. Among other things, the company proposed that the Saudis become partners of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But Ken Wynne, the museum’s chief communications officer, said he was not aware of Edelman’s proposal. He did not respond when asked if the museum would accept Saudi money.

The plan suggested that Saudi Arabia develop partnerships with international celebrities and major institutions and seize opportunities that could lead to productions being filmed across the kingdom.

Edelman indicated that the kingdom faces specific obstacles to improve its image. One passage in the plan reads: “The kingdom is not currently seen as rich and culturally diverse.” Edelman has developed a model graph of the global reputational risks facing the Saudis. Among them: “Women’s Rights Issues”, “Human Rights Violations”, “Conservative Views” and “Increased Religious Freedom and Intolerance”.

A former Edelman employee remarked that choosing celebrities like Chopra and Aoki would probably be strategic. He referred to Chopra’s feminist activism and explained that the kingdom was trying to win over a female audience amid years of criticism of its record in the field of women’s rights.

Transfer it to Arabic at the disposal of: Al-Mayadeen Net

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