Saudi lobby pays $138,000 for anti-Qatar ads in US
Washington, DC – A Saudi lobby in the United States has launched a television advertisement campaign against Qatar, contracts reviewed by Al Jazeera show, with $138,000 spent on seven, 30-second TV spots.
The TV spots have been purchased by the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).
The advertisements, which began airing on NBC-4 in Washington, DC on July 23, say Qatar is supporting “terrorism” and destabilising US allies in the region, allegations that the Saudi-led group of countries has maintained since cutting ties with Qatar on June 5.
Doha rejects the allegations as “baseless”.
Four of the ads will run during Meet the Press, a weekly news-interview programme that sees host Chuck Todd interview high-level politicians on Sunday mornings.
The programme leads the Sunday show news market and has seen gains in viewership over the past year, according to reports.
For the four spots, totalling 120 seconds, SAPRAC paid $120,000, or $1,000 per second.
The three other ads were aired during the British Open golf tournament on July 23 and cost $6,000 each.
Kip Cassino, executive vice president of research of a market research firm Borrell Associates, said SAPRAC probably does not want to influence the public, but decision-makers, given the few spots purchased for the ad.
“Having a few ads is not much repetition.
There’s not much to gain from it,” Cassino told Al Jazeera, adding that current research suggests that repetition is key to influencing an audience.
Richard Lau, a professor of political science at Rutgers University who specialises in media effects in political campaigns and political persuasion, agreed.
The few airings, time slots and the fact that the advertisement is only airing in DC means there is a select audience: politicians.
The ad “would only be in the service of influencing government policy towards the countries.
It’s not like a campaign where people are going to go out and vote for Saudi Arabia or Qatar”, Lau said.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the Gulf earlier this month and called for direct talks between Qatar and the Saudi-led group, which includes Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Lau doubted the effectiveness of the TV spot, saying that experts and politicians in Washington, DC, are some of the most informed individuals regarding foreign policy, and many have already made up their minds on the issue of who funds “extremist” organisations in the Middle East.
“What strikes me as interesting is that Saudi Arabia is starting a new strategy for influencing opinion in America,” he said.
Source: Qatar Tribune