JWT, Largest Ad Agency in the U.S., Conducts First Extensive Study of Muslim-American Attitudes

Surprising Study Reveals Muslim Communities Long to Be Acknowledged As Part

of Mainstream America

Apr 30, 2007, 01:00 ET from JWT

    NEW YORK, April 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Many American Muslims
 feel simultaneously overexposed in the media and invisible as part of the
 American mainstream. But while they generally perceive themselves to be
 under constant suspicion, a new study shows that Muslims still believe in
 the American dream and are quietly living out traditional American values.
     "One of the most crucial things to emerge from the study is that
 American Muslims want to feel less singled out and to be simply
 acknowledged and accepted," says Marian Salzman, executive vice president
 and chief marketing officer of JWT Worldwide. "They're hyphenated Americans
 in a country where religious observance is normal."
     JWT, the largest advertising agency in the U.S. and the fourth-largest
 in the world, commissioned this wide-ranging study on America's estimated 6
 to 8 million Muslims; it includes in-depth interviews with noted American
 Muslims, ethnographies of ordinary Muslims and a survey of 350 Muslims that
 used face-to-face interviews. An adapted version of the survey was also
 fielded online to more than 450 Americans representing the general
     "We quickly found out that Muslims have become wary of discussing
 themselves and their faith," notes Salzman. "Many have felt a lot of
 hostility directed at them and didn't want to risk expressing opinions on
 anything vaguely controversial. It took a lot of effort to convince enough
 Muslims that our study was purely market research, not for political
     Participants balked most notably at questions related to 9/11 and its
 effects, adds Ann Mack, JWT's director of trendspotting. "America's
 post-9/11 focus on Muslims has forced them to grapple with some tough
 questions that few other Americans have had to face: How public should they
 be about their faith? Should they stand up for it or avoid confrontation?
 Are there conflicts of loyalty between their faith and their country?"
     Among the key quantitative findings:
     * Over two-thirds (69 percent) of American Muslims say they are often
       judged by events outside their control, a view of Muslims shared by 60
       percent of the general sample. At a time when Arabic names or Muslim
       attire routinely attract unwelcome attention, more than half of Muslims
       (53 percent) fear that their right to express their religion is under
       attack, and 39 percent of the general population agrees with them.
     * Much of Muslim angst is driven by widespread perceptions of anti-Muslim
       bias in the media. Well over half of Muslims (57 percent) feel that
       media coverage is always/mostly biased, and another third (34 percent)
       feel it is occasionally biased. The general public senses an anti-Muslim
       slant as well, with 25 percent agreeing that coverage is always/mostly
       biased and 48 percent saying it's occasionally biased. More than
       three-quarters (78 percent) of Muslims say they are increasingly angry
       about the way the media characterizes and portrays Muslims.
     * When it comes to the stuff of everyday life, however, Muslims are like
       other Americans. Both Muslims and the general population place a high
       priority on feeling safe outside their home (89 percent of both
       samples), personal freedom (89 percent of Muslims vs. 93 percent of the
       general sample), education (90 percent vs. 88 percent) and, to a lesser
       extent for both, career (75 percent vs. 69 percent).
     * On the topic of advertising, Muslims generally reflect mainstream
       American views, with a slant toward the conservative. A little over 70
       percent of both samples agreed advertisers should accept greater
       responsibility for setting a moral standard. Sixty-nine percent of
       Muslims vs. 59 percent of the general sample feel that most advertising
       sets a low moral tone for younger and more easily impressed viewers; 60
       percent of Muslims vs. 47 percent of the general sample agree that the
       advertising they see is too suggestive or immodest.
     * Muslims' biggest gripe with advertising is that it doesn't acknowledge
       their existence: A high 71 percent of Muslims (vs. 34 percent of the
       general sample) agreed that "Advertisers rarely show anybody of my
       faith/ethnicity in their advertising," and 72 percent said that if they
       felt advertisers generally wanted or appreciated the business of
       Muslims, they would pay more attention to ads.
     * While most Muslims (61 percent) feel that it's hard to be a Muslim in
       America, many are optimistic; indeed, 73 percent said they are confident
       that Western society would one day accept Islam.
     Muslims are not necessarily looking for marketers to provide any
 specially targeted products, although Islam does require specific food and
 packaged goods (halal), clothing (modest) and financial transactions
 (shariah- compliant). What they are primarily looking for is acknowledgment
 from marketers, says Mack. "The challenge and the opportunity for brands
 are to connect with Muslims in a low-key way that recognizes their
 American-ness and seeks to understand their particular attitudes."
     "Every step of this study has been hugely instructive for us and for
 our clients," says Salzman. "We started out with the intention of learning
 about the 'Muslim community.' We quickly found out that there is no such
 thing as a single American Muslim community, much as there is no single
 Christian community. Muslims vary hugely by ethnicity, faith, tradition,
 education, income and degree of religious observance, to name a few
     JWT will make the study available to key clients and will also sell the
 findings on its proprietary "smarts" Web site (www.jwtintelligence.com)
 starting May 1. A comparable study of the Muslim market in the U.K. will be
 launched on May 21. The study was done in collaboration with Market Probe,
 NoFormula and Attention Space.
     About JWT
     JWT ranks as the largest advertising agency brand in the United States
 and as the fourth-largest full-service network in the world. Its parent
 company is WPP (NASDAQ:   WPPGY). JWT's heritage of brand-building excellence
 extends back to 1864, making us the world's oldest advertising agency
 brand. In 1939, JWT pioneered the first national consumer research panel.
 In 1988, we created the first research study of consumer lifestyles, "Life
 Stages." We believe in being anthropologists first, advertising people
     Press Contact:
     Alan Fox, Planned TV Arts