Advertising in Mesopotamia (Old Iraq)

When we follow the legacy of early advertisements in Iraq, it will return us back to the wonderful times representing serenity, peace, simplicity and genuine life. It is crucial to shed light that advertising in ancient Iraq was produced by playing the trumpet in the streets.

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Reflecting about the importance of announcements, in a book called the Golden Meadows written by al-Massaoudi, excerpted: In essence, a caller for prayer, muezzin, in the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu’tadid bi-llah’s time saw a foreigner in Baghdad trying to rape a woman who was going home late at night. The muezzin found no way to defend her but to ascend the mosque minaret and commenced a call for prayer. The caliphate was surprised for the timing of the prayer that unknowing to him saved the woman. When the prayer announcer was asked, they knew the secret and arrested that foreigner. The caliphate thanked the muezzin and told him to adopt this technique of announcement from now on when there is something bad or alarming.

The following verses and the story behind them are considered as the earliest form of advertising in the Arab literature:

قل للمليحة في الخمار الأسود

ماذا فعلتِ بناسك ٍ متعبدِ

قد كان شمّر للصلاة ثيابه

حتى وقفت ُ له بباب المسجدِ

ردي عليه صلاته وصيامه

لا تقتليهِ برب دين محمدِ

Tell the beautiful woman wearing the black Khimar (veil),

What did you do to a worshipping monk?!

He pulled up the sleeves to pray,

But you stood at the door of masjid.

Return back his prayers and fasting,

Never kill him by Muhammad’s religion.

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Historians believe that those lines were written by Rabiea bin Amer who lived during the times of Umayyads as the first commercial communications because it was constructed when Rabiea saw unmarketable goods for one of Basra tradesmen who imported a black Khimar (veil) while the white Khimar was the fashion! When Rabiea rendered the poem, women were crazy to buy the new black Khimar solving the marketing issue and creating demand for the new product.

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In the 1930s, there was no other way to advertise but the old Iraqi newspapers. But as a matter of fact, usual strategies of advertising were not valid or relevant in Iraq in comparison to the capital world at those times. The owners of the shops and companies were not willing to advertise their products because of string cultural belief that advertising was only for unmarketable goods and commodities! The owners of the newspapers were also afraid of giving many areas for advertising because they believed people might think that this newspaper has no principles by being non-official.

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The radio-broadcasting had an excellent advertising role in Iraq with higher interaction than the print media. It was funny sometimes as elderly Iraqis remember channels like Tami radio, which could be considered as the first community-generated over-the-radio advertising especially the opportunity to announce general public celebrations, losses and information. Later on, TV added much especially the TV establishment were the most affected by the French and British models in Iraq that are connected to the US advertising and media model when that was initiated as early as 1941 with an ad for Bulova, watches and jewellery company for 9 United Stated dollars only!

Author: Ahmed Janabi

CEO @ Harf Promotions Entrepreneur & Medical Doctor: A Connector of Ideas, Thoughts, Dreams, and Hopes!

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