Andy McNab exclusive: ‘Kill Isis with ads, not airstrikes’

Andy McNab on how Don Drapers must blitz France’s terrorists.

Andy McNab has no faith in bombing Isis
Pointless? Andy McNab reckons marketers are mightier than mortars when it comes to defeating Isis. Image Picture Sean Gallup/Getty Images

In the past few days, Jihadi John was “incinerated” by a US drone attack and ISIS fanatics brought horror to the heart of Paris.

You may think a man such as Andy McNab would be first to call for extremists to be carpet-bombed in revenge.

The former SAS Gulf War veteran turned author survived torture at the hands of Iraqis in 1991 and describes himself as a “good psychopath”.

But McNab’s solution to dealing with the worst of today’s “bad psychopaths” isn’t what you’d expect – it’s peaceful.

The writer behind a string of best-selling books based on his SAS operations doesn’t support airstrikes against Jihadis. Instead, he recommends beating them at their own game, using stealthy anti-Isis marketing.

Muslim extremists have been waging war on Western capitalist values by promoting their atrocities using the media tools of their enemy. Isis’ beheadings, burnings and stonings have been marketed by its footsoldiers on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, as professionally as any corporate marketing team campaigns.

In terms of media and online coverage, Isis are almost as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola and Apple.

The Bataclan theatre of terror in Paris targeted by Isis
Theatre of terror The harrowing, blood-soaked aftermath of Friday night’s terrorist attack on the Bataclan theatre in Paris.

Isis have disseminated their outrages on videos that include production techniques pilfered from schlocky Hollywood slasher films, including slow motion, jump cuts and the use of music as a backdrop to violence. Hashtags, subliminal messages, brainwashing and recruitment videos have also been deployed with razor-sharp precision in the battle for hearts and minds.

The Isis “product” – a nebulous dream of establishing a fundamentalist caliphate – has achieved the wet dream of marketing men: it has captured the imagination of yoof across the world.

In the early 1970s, young Muslims thought the streets of London would be paved with gold and wanted to flock to the country to make their fortunes because, back then, Britain had a powerful story to tell.

Now Isis’ marketing pitch – the lie that they stand for religious virtue, Muslim community and righteous revolution (despite their obsessions with slavery, child rape and porn) – is persuading the young to leave the UK.

More British Muslims have gone to fight in Syria than are enlisted in the armed forces in the UK.

Isis amazingly even appeal to young British girls who have fled democracy to be brutalised. And Isis’ recruitment videos target women, doctors and teachers, with their promo tapes featuring surgeons with stethoscopes around their necks and schoolchildren being given ‘IS’-branded school bags.

A major part of the world is hell-bent on bombing the terrorists – a desire inflamed by Friday night’s attacks in Paris in which at least 132 people were killed and another 349 injured.

Three teams of jihadis attacked the Stade de France football stadium, a handful of bars and cafés, then the Bataclan concert hall. It was the worst violence in France since World War II.

Here, McNab writes for Loaded on why the revenge vowed by the French government isn’t the answer, and states the case for employing a war cabinet of marketers to batter Brand Isis.



How To Kill Isis by Andy McNab

Andy McNab thinks only ad men can beat Isis
Stop and think Like Bono, Andy McNab feels Isis need to be defeated on the intellectual battlefield.

If we wanted, we could kill the people currently behind Isis inside two weeks. We’ve got such superior military power, the job could be done very easily.

But there are two problems with that: firstly, the political will isn’t there. President Barack Obama is all about protecting his troops, not sending them into battle, and Britain follows that lead. That’s fair enough – the geopolitics of Syria and Northern Iraq is extremely complicated.

More importantly, if we did kill Isis’ soldiers, their ideology would survive – new soldiers would simply take their place.

Get the guys who persuade us to buy iPhones to sell teenagers the idea Isis is as uncool as shit trainers

One of the problems we have when we talk about defeating Isis is we still think of combat in an old-fashioned way. We talk about the ‘frontline’ when it comes to extremists, but there is no frontline against Isis – no massed ranks of soldiers coming at our troops with rows of machine guns.

The armed forces these days call it “the battle space” when talking about fighting Isis on their territory, because there are very few soldiers, yet they could come at you from anywhere within a wide territory across Syria and Iraq.

Kill these Isis soldiers and they’d become martyrs, which is an appealing image in fanatical ideology.

What’s shocked me is how we’ve allowed that ideology to spread so quickly and so effectively. More than the ground war, what’s important in defeating Isis is beating them in the cyberwar.

Isis are winning by recruiting people online. Like it or not, to a lot of disaffected British teenagers, Isis looks glamorous to teenagers who don’t see much of a future ahead of them.

Training videos show Isis soldiers hanging out eating pizza, like some cool gang. How do you overcome that? Simple – you need to take Isis on at their own game and make them look uncool. That’s what we’ve got to start doing more effectively.

Give ’em some Borat-style satire Isis spoofs such as this need marketed globally by professionals says McNab.
Fightback A compilation of real-life ‘bloopers’ designed to make Isis look like blundering amateurs, with their guns, bazookas and bombings going hilariously haywire.

Right now, we’re being too censorious, wagging fingers and telling teenagers, “Don’t join Isis, they’re bad people.” What 18-year-old ever listened to someone saying, “That’s wrong”? It only feeds Isis’ image of dangerous glamour. It’s only when Isis is seen as something really naff and old-fashioned their numbers will go down.

I don’t have instant answers as to how to make Isis look uncool, but I’ll tell you who does: advertising and marketing executives.

To be pragmatic about it, beheadings have almost lost their shock value

We need to mobilise those brains. It’s the same methodology that can persuade people into thinking Adidas trainers are cooler than Nike, or vice-versa.

We’ll rush to buy the new iPhone when our current one works perfectly fine. Get the guys who persuade us to buy into all of that, and ask them to come up with ways of selling to teenagers the idea Isis is as uncool as shit trainers. One incredibly grim way Isis is marketing itself all too effectively is with the brutality of their punishments.

There has been talk recently Isis are set to make their torture even more horrific, by carrying out ancient punishments such as sticking spikes up victims’ backsides and leaving them to die while impaled. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they did that, because they’ve managed to make beheadings almost routine. To be pragmatic about it, beheadings have almost lost their shock value, and the most effective way to keep getting people’s attention is to keep making the punishments increasingly extreme.

It’s important we start engaging much more effectively on social media to talk properly to potential Isis recruits. We have ignored that for far too long and it’s allowed Isis to get the upper hand.

It may sound odd for ask for marketing guys’ help, but it’s the best way now to play catch-up.

Sorted! The Good Psychopath’s Guide To Bossing Your Life by Andy McNab and Dr Kevin Dutton is available from Bantam Press. McNab’s new novel Detonator, also from Bantam, is out now.

Previous Post
Next Post