Bell Pottinger in Iraq democracy PR drive

Iraq’s US-led administration has appointed Bell Pottinger Communications (B-PC) to launch a campaign for the establishment of democracy in the war-torn country in a $5.8m (£3.2m) deal.

The Coalition Provisional Authority has brought B-PC on board to lead a consortium of agencies to promote democracy ahead of the handover of power to an interim Iraqi authority on 30 June. Its mandate also includes promoting the election of an Iraqi government, which the UN hopes will happen by the end of 2005.

B-PC will work with its Dubai operation Bates PanGulf, and Baghdad-based media services company Balloch & Roe. A small team will be sent to work with Balloch & Roe’s Arabic writers who will advise on how best to cross the cultural divide.

B-PC chairman Lord Bell told PRWeek: ‘There is no Arabic word for democracy – they use the word ‘democratier’, which is not Arabic. It is certainly a very big comms challenge. It is not going to be easy but it will be rewarding.’

The contract runs provisionally for four months, but Bell said he hoped to manage the PR through the progression to a democratic state.

He said: ‘We are trying to persuade the people of the best route to arrive at peace and prosperity, which is what everybody wants.’

The key team from B-PC is well versed in communicating political change. Director Mark Turnbull was previously based in South Africa promoting the Independent Electoral Commission during the fall of apartheid, while Dubai head Tom Mollo has experience in Arabic affairs, having managed the Emirates airline PR account.

B-PC has a range of media to choose from to communicate its message, including a terrestrial TV network in Iraq and multiple satellite channels, including the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network.

The region is also home to hundreds of newspapers, radio channels and billboard sites. B-PC also hopes to use public meetings and grassroots-level activity.

The campaign faces scepticism from Iraq’s majority Shi’ites who have been critical of the proposed American roadmap.

The only PR agency to pitch, B-PC saw off ad agencies J Walter Thompson, Dubai-based Bain Euro, Baghdad-based Blank Creative and Lacuna Research.

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