Saddam Hussein Taught Us About Advertising

Do you remember the Iraqi playing card featuring Saddam Hussein? And do you remember the other 51 cards? While Saddam features in first place on the ace of spades, his disgraced army of men that followed him and enforced his rule graced the other 51 cards in order of decreasing importance down the deck.

The deck officially named the “Personality Identification Playing Cards” became commonly known as the ‘Most-wanted’ deck of cards.

The U.S. military developed the set of playing cards in 2003 to help troops identify the most-wanted members of President Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party Government and the Revolutionary Command Council members.

Each card features a picture (if available) of the wanted person, their name and the job performed by that individual.

The very smart thinking individuals that implemented this idea into the Iraqi playing cards implemented an advertising vehicle and method that really is brilliant. Solders often play cards which they enjoy to pass the down time. And while they played game after game with their Most Wanted cards they are or at least were exposed to the names, faces and titles of those featured on the cards in an almost subliminal way.

This slowly embedded the images and information into their minds and almost by default made for recognizing them in the field an easier task and subsequently a safer operation was achieved.

Now if you’re thinking marketing and advertising, the Iraqi playing card featuring Saddam Hussein and the most wanted deck should ring bells of opportunity to you louder than the big boom.

The U.S Military used one of the oldest, most recognized and accepted games in the world to make their troupes aware of the enemy they were looking for. In effect they advertised a message or a series of messages that they wanted their troupes to remember using the Iraqi playing cards as an advertising vehicle and it worked brilliantly well.

Do you think the results would be any different if they decided to place advertising for goods and services on them? Absolutely not because it’s the message on the card that first registers with the player irrespective of the content in that message.

Certainly some larger type companies have and continue to recognise the brilliance of playing cards but for the most part they use them for Branding not advertising whereby they place their logo or company message on the backs of the cards. The Iraqi playing card however is individually customized on the face. All 52 of them advertise their own message with the face of who they were looking for and it proved a great success.

And while the branded decks dominated by one business with their logo on every card back is in effect an expensive solitary way to go, being part of 52 advertisers who come together to advertise in one deck drastically reduces the initial cost of advertising in that deck of cards.

The side benefit or perhaps very clear advantage of placing an advertisement in a deck of cards compared to placing an advertisement in a paper, magazine, letter drop, direct mail or similar is that the cards are kept together, won’t be thrown away and will likely be kept for ever!

The other huge advantages of using a deck of cards for advertising like the Iraqi playing card of Saddam Hussein and the most wanted is that they are unique, appeal to all ages and last a life time. Few other advertising mediums can claim such benefits for advertisers.

Cards, while being a very different vehicle to carry your advertising can be used in a similar way however for almost any advertising message.