NewsBits: The MASA Fallout Continues

One of the biggest marketing debacle’s the U.S. ever witnessed was the launch of New Coke in 1985. Coca Cola apologized for not understanding their audience. Will MASA’s Israeli management team?

both from Haaretz:

Israeli officials need crash course on Diaspora, asserts local AJC leader

The controversy surrounding the recent launching and dropping of an Israeli campaign to counter assimilation demonstrates a growing disconnect between Israeli and North American Jews, the acting Israel director of the American Jewish Committee asserted this week.

Ed Rettig, the AJC leader who is also a Reform rabbi and scholar of Diaspora affairs, said Israeli officials dealing with Jews in the U.S. must be systemically taught about the American Jewish community. He recently submitted a policy paper to Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, to close the gap.

Rettig called the campaign launched by the Jewish Agency’s long-term Israel program MASA “a neat example” this problem. “The people at MASA are honestly puzzled by the angry response to their campaign, and the people who were irked by the ad are honestly befuddled by the campaign,” said Rettig.

The message of the controversial MASA campaign, Rettig says, “runs contrary to the notion of identity by choice, which is central to the way American Jews define themselves – and which is foreign to many Israeli Jews.”

The policy paper calls for Jewish Agency departments dealing specifically with American Jewish-Israeli relations “to be brought on board with training sessions promoting the need for a deep cultural dialogue.” Americans must also be educated about Israeli perceptions of identity, the paper states.

‘Missing Jews’ campaign ignores changing realities

This latest PR screw-up is yet more evidence of how desperate and out of touch the organization has become. Instead of encouraging rapprochement with an increasingly muscular and confident Diaspora, MASA has done the opposite with its cringe-worthy ad.

I have heard from sources within the agency that Sharansky was opposed to the MASA PR campaign from the start and refused to take part in its launch. I believe that to be true and certainly his forceful decision to pull the ad, (though it’s not clear whether the largely independent MASA management was acting on his orders) proves his displeasure. But at the same time, Sharansky has yet to outline an alternative vision for the agency’s future.

from The Fundermentalist (JTA):

More on the MASA ad controversy

Some of the Jewish Agency’s American lay leaders initially stood behind the ad, figuring that although it was provocative…

That is until they saw the price tag for the Israeli ad – some $850,000, according to one high-up insider.

“They have done several edgy ads. They made some uncomfortable, but as a marketer, I would say, ‘Bait the hook for the fish, not the fisherman,’ ” the insider said, adding later that “I saw this ad and said this is edgy, and I got a couple of complaints, but I defended it. Now comes the fact that they spent $850,000, and I stopped being defensive and said, ‘Are you f-ing kidding me? They are spending that kind of money for tertiary referral business?’ If you are talking to a secondary referral base, this can’t be more than 10 percent of your marketing budget. This is a horrendous expenditure.”

The incident most likely will put the issue of closer oversight of MASA on the agenda for the agency’s next board of governors meetings, the insider said.