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    Apricobama latest wave of ’Obamania’

    by Işıl Eğrikavuk
    25.04.2009 - 00:00 | Son Güncelleme: 24.04.2009 - 18:31

    ISTANBUL- Two weeks have passed since U.S. president Barack Obama wrapped up his visit to Turkey, and still his picture hangs on billboards in quite unexpected places across the country.

    After Garanti Bank’s advertisement campaign, in which an Obama-look-alike promoted the bank’s low rate interest loans, now the famous Malatya apricot has become the new product to be advertised alongside Obama’s image.

    "We got very excited when he mentioned Malatya apricots in his speech," said Malatya Governor Halil Ibrahim Daşöz. "We decided to act on it and together with students in our city quickly came up with a promotional campaign. We are going to call it Apricobama."

    Indeed, during a conversation last week about Turkey’s entering the European Union, Obama had shown Malatya apricots as an example and suggested that through the EU Turkey would be able to sell its apricots to EU countries. Following this comment, the newly designed Apricobama posters, on which Obama himself is pointing toward the apricots, are all over the city of Malatya. On the posters it says, "They are worth being admired. And moreÉ"

    "Obama looks very healthy and energetic, and we want to suggest him to eat our apricots," Daşöz said. "We also printed 91,000 postcards with his image. We would like everyone to send it to the White House."

    Local responses
    The new ad campaign received a lot of attention in the local media. Some newspapers even underlined that Obama, being the 44th president of the United States shares the same number with Malatya’s license plate, and interpreted that as a sign of good luck. Yet user comments on local newspaper Web sites demonstrate that not everyone in the city agrees with the Apricobama campaign. "Thank God Obama mentioned the apricot," said one commenter, identifying himself as Erhan. "When he buys those apricots will the apricot prices rise too? Our deputies do nothing about that."

    Contrary to the media frenzy, the new campaign seems to be viewed skeptically by local businessmen. Businessman Erkan Arı thinks using Obama for this campaign is "absurd."

    "The government should first create a budget and realize a more systematic ad campaign," he said. "Otherwise it wouldn’t work no matter how many postcards they send to the White House."

    According to studies, Turkey holds 82 percent of the total dried apricot trade in the world and ranks highest in apricot production. The same study also shows that the United States has been the primary importer of dried apricots from Turkey with a share of about 20 percent on the average. Yet, with the economic crisis there has been a slight slowdown in the business. "We used to get orders for the next five months," said importer Mehmet Hasıroğlu. "Now we don’t know what will happen next week."

    While the effect of the ad campaign is yet to be seen, one thing remains a fact for residents of the city: The posters of Obama on the billboards, in which he is pointing to Malatya apricots. Daşöz says the posters have been "quickly designed by the students." Yet, what do they indeed speak of? "I don’t even know what to say about these posters," said a creative director who asked to remain anonymous. " It seems like they just took his picture and put it on the posters. It is so poorly done. There is no visual objective."

    Last month, it was Garanti Bank in Turkey that used his look alike. And now a city calls its cultural symbol Apricobama. How many more Obamas can we really handle?
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