McKinley Moore, a Swindon-based PR agency, has taken on its biggest challenge in its five year history. Fresh from driving the advertising campaign that gave Wella shampoo a 2% increase in its market share in southern England, the company is preparing to tackle the overwhelmingly hostile public perception of Somali pirates by taking on a new account from the National Association of Pirates in Somalia (NPAS).
'This is the big one, there's no doubt,' said Gideon Moore, managing director of the firm. 'We find that the image of the pirates is mainly associated with such negatives as extortion and mass murder - and I'll be the first to admit that some of them have not given much thought to how their brand is perceived in some of its most important export markets. But we think we can do it.'
The first step in the campaign will be a poster blitz on the underground. Featuring a Somali tribesman in combat fatigues but with his AK-47 held in a non-threatening position to his left-hand side below the tagline 'The pirates want a khat with you'.
'It's deliberately ambiguous,' explained Moore. 'On the one hand, it's designed to appeal to urban hipsters by seemingly inviting them to share their drugs, because khat is the hallucinogenic leaf they chew, while on the other it's friendly and welcoming because it's actually pronounced 'chat'. Actually, maybe explaining all those details should be the first step, come to think of it. I'll get back to you on that.'
To build on more positive perceptions of sea-borne robbery and mayhem, Somali pirates are also to be educated in the traditional garb of three-cornered black hats and eyepatches and will be tutored to address the world press in a 17th century Bristol accent. This will be rolled out gradually over the next nine months ahead of a full-scale media blitz to coincide with International Talk Like a Pirate Day next September.
'I must admit,' said Somali gang leader and NAP director-general Hussein Idriss, 'I was sceptical about taking on a PR agency at first but this recent case with that British couple has got people saying some terribly hurtful things about us. There is so much more to modern African piracy than macho posturing, kidnapping and nihilistic violence and that's the message we've got to get across.
Added Idriss: 'Yaaaaaaarrrrrrr!'