President Macky Sall tweeted, on January 11, 2023, at 3:31 p.m., a photo on which he posed, pleasant, like a traveller in an airport, holding a trolley suitcase. The objective was to promote national preference, saying in a trivial way « consume local », in this month of January that he dedicated « month of local consumption ». The initiative could have been noble especially as the Head of State wrote on the occasion: « As part of the month of local consumption, I congratulate all our producers including Maraz Origins, for the excellent quality of the products, with the support of the Der. Together, let’s buy Senegalese, let’s support local consumption. » To distinguish the producer Maraz, regardless of the quality of its products, is a mistake, an error even, not to say a sacrilege. It appears inappropriate for a politician, let alone a head of state, to engage in commercial advertising in any form whatsoever. We assume a spontaneous, casual, even innocent and totally disinterested gesture, but the consequences can be serious. Other Senegalese producers, competitors of MarazOrigins, can legitimately be offended by this presidential preference, this advertising boost, on the part of what an ambassador! Other leather goods manufacturers have benefited from support from DER or other public bodies and are also doing quality work. We would not be surprising to discover that ministers and other senior officials of the State in mimicry impose the need to display themselves with products of Maraz Origins.
President Sall has thus set a dangerous precedent for republican and governmental ethics, because it will now be difficult for him to sanction or reprimand a minister or a senior official who would lend himself to this game, perhaps even for less noble reasons. On another aspect, the President of the Republic would no longer have any reason to decline the request of another Senegalese brand, to give it a hand in an action or campaign of commercial promotion. This means that the presidential gesture has probably not been measured, but it is appropriate to regret it publicly and to close the door definitively to any recurrence. In September 2020, President Macky Sall tried to promote local tourism by going to the Fathala Game Reserve to pose with wild animals. The idea was very well appreciated, but some had not failed to note the dubious insistence of the cameras of the RTS on the cap worn by the head of state, and which was stamped with the Fathala brand. There is a real risk to the use of presidential images. Who does not remember that in 2008, President Wade was led to enhance with his presence a launching ceremony of a private real estate project? The promoter surfed on this posting these photos at his exhibitions, this was enough to convince our diaspora compatriots, who then rushed to pay large sums to the project without ever receiving the keys of the promised houses. This story still remains the biggest scandal in real estate development in Senegal.
Political opponents of President Macky Sall mock (and this is fair trade) the pose for Maraz Origins, presenting the photo in social media as premonitory of President Sall’s imminent departure from the presidential palace in 2024. The « publicity » stunt could, moreover, be counterproductive for the same brand, in the sense that it could provoke a certain repulsion; political opponents of President Sall would attach the brand to his name and could refuse to buy the products. It is probably a double-edged sword because the high popularity rating could boost sales and disenchantment with the ambassador will have the opposite effect, washing down sales. Maraz Origins would certainly like to sell to those who love Macky Sall as well as to those who love him less. We have already seen this situation in Senegal. The watch brand, Mathydy, made Ousmane Sonko its ambassador. On March 26, 2021, the leader of the Pastef party posed, highlighting, like a model, a Mathydy Damel collection. He returned to the advertising scene with the Cheikh Anta Diop collection of the same brand, on October 11, 2022. This was enough to arouse the ire of many customers who then refused to wear the Mathydy brand, especially since the brand’s favourite advertiser was entangled in a splashing sex scandal. In a panic, the Mathydy house was obliged to try to make up for it. The brand keenly specified in a press release that it is « totally apolitical and will remain so because it is adopted by thousands of customers in Senegal and internationally, regardless of their political opinion, religious belief and social rank ». We can say that the damage was already done and have observed that since then Mathydy is no longer displayed as proudly as in the past. Go find out!
The Good and Bad Moves of Public Men as Advertising Agents
It is rare to find heads of state or politicians, lending themselves to the game of commercial agents. Communication and protocol services seem to be systematically monitoring this. We refuse to see the image of the politician being misused for such purposes. Experiments have been observed, for example, in France. Arnaud de Montebourg, ephemeral Minister of Economy, Productive Recovery and Digital in 2014, was struggling to get out of a controversy sparked by the use, for commercial promotion purposes, of his image by a French brand producing marine wear. He explained that he had voluntarily lent himself to the game and in a totally disinterested way to encourage the promotion of French products.
In the United States of America, President Donald Trump pushed provocation and arrogance to the point of having his picture taken, sitting at his desk at the White House, with jars of the Goya brand food products ostensibly arranged. Donald Trump sought to toast his world into the « I don’t care », because members of his family, including his daughter, Ivanka, advertised for the Goya brand. Trump’s bravado had moved the world, even in the camp of his fierce supporters in the Republican Party. Some crowned heads sometimes accept the use of their image or even play roles in posters or advertising spots for good causes of general scope, especially in the field of charity or social issues. Thus, for example, President Nicolas Sarkozy made a very telling AIDS campaign poster, with: «Would you vote for me if I was HIV positive? It is AIDS that must be excluded, not the HIV-positive.» The campaign was a hit. Queen Elizabeth II, pushed by her grandson, Prince Harry, also agreed to make a video to respond to the couple Barack and Michelle Obama, as part of the Invictus Games, a sporting initiative of Prince Harry featuring the war wounded. Other Heads of State have seen their image used, against their will, in advertising campaigns.
At Le Quotidien we turned a photo of President Abdoulaye Wade in our favour, holding a copy of our newspaper in his hands. The mischievous idea was to respond to President Wade for having organised a press conference to vehemently attack our newspaper whose crime had been to reveal to the public, the scandal of large « extrabudgetary expenditures » for an amount exceeding 172 billion francs. The photo of President Wade carefully reading the edition revealing the scandal was plastered in the streets with the slogan: To know everything before anyone else, do as he does« hitting the nail on the head!
It must be said that « the actions of presidents, and sometimes their wives or companions, are scrutinised meticulously by the media. So much so that communicators sometimes seek to take advantage of certain situations to highlight a company and thus mark the unconscious. Many ads use politicians as ad icons. Some companies or associations surf on political news, elections or the private lives of presidents to make themselves known. The caricatures are numerous and sometimes make it possible to realise the buzz. » Sixt, the rental car brand offered to replace the scooter of François Hollande, who took this means of travel to join Julie Gayet at night. The dating site Ashley Madison used the image of presidents to promote adultery, the communication agency Mens Com resurrected François Mitterrand, in an advertising campaign for the Tgv. A photo of former President Wade with Bara Gaye, then head of his party’s youth, raged on social media.President Wade wore Nike sneakers. These shoes had attracted attention. It is not known if the « look » was deliberate or that the American brand sought to use it to its advantage, but the slogan: « Yes, sneakers, makes « young! » circulated well. Nor do we know the story of how former President Léopold Sédar Senghor came to be the icon of the French perfume brand « Jehanne Rigaud« . A Léopold Sédar Senghor collection, with the photo of the President-poet and the national green-yellow-red colours, was marketed just after his departure from power. The collection seems to have disappeared from the shelves since.
Post scriptum: Using Fake to Legitimize Ousmane Sonko‘s New « Francophilia«
Ousmane Sonko’s January 6, 2023, outing on France 24 and Radio France Internationale (RFI) is being debated. The new spirit of openness shown towards France by the leader of the Pastef party has provoked reactions from many people. The fire has even started between Ousmane Sonko and some of his activist friends who are not only surprised that OusmaneSonko consents to express himself through media that he has always devoted to groans, but could also not want to accept, in the slightest, this tendency to « normalise » or « presidentialise » in the eyes of French officials. To seek to put on a good face or to make up for it, the « spin doctors » of the Pastef party are not lacking, at the risk of building the most twisted blows. This is how an article published on January 8, 2023, through a site hitherto unknown to the general public, atlantiactu.com entitled « Senegal: the Centre for Analysis, Forecasting and Strategy of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs « blesses » a rapprochement of Paris with Ousmane Sonko« , has widely circulated social media. It turns out that this article was built on fake. In fact, this centre (Caps), directed by Lafont–Rapnouil at the Quai d’Orsay, has never produced such a document to appreciate relations between Ousmane Sonko and French officials.
French diplomats and Caps officials assure that the last report issued by Caps was in 2020, and in relation to the potential effects of the Covid-19 crisis on African countries. Moreover, at the time, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a communiqué to indicate that the conclusions of such a report could not bind the French government, especially since CAPS was an independent consultative structure. Atlantiactu.com (incidentally the only media to mention the subject) is identified as a news site created in Dakar by militants of the Pastef party. But the most sordid thing is that the article includes excerpts from the 2020 report (three years earlier) on Covid-19 seeking to put into perspective the context of Ousmane Sonko‘s interview with the French public audio-visual media. Added to this is another incongruity which consists in citing an alleged Africa Department that does not exist in Caps and of which none of the people mentioned in the article is a member of, works or collaborates with, in any way. In a way, it was a vulgar tinkering to make believe that there was intelligence analysis or connivance between Caps and Ousmane Sonko to incite or allow the media to carry out the interview. Which again is totally false. Moreover, does this mean that the sudden desire to be well seen by the France is so significant or vital for Ousmane Sonko that his group would not desist from any forfeiture to get there?
By Madiambal DIAGNE / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Translation by Ndey T. SOSSEH