In what reminds one of the 'Cold War' days, although it is more sophisticated in this century, the pro-Putin news outlet 'Russia Today' displays rather philosophical ads right now on UK roads and at some US airports.
It is less than two more weeks until a well thought out and beautifully executed advertisement campaign will end that was started in December of 2009. I'm referring to five ads by Russia Today, a TV channel and news outlet that compares itself with CNN. All five ads are on display since several weeks on posters alongside roads in the UK, whereas the original idea to show them at US airports as well has been more difficult to achieve.
Interestingly, but perhaps understandably because one ad features US president Barack Obama, airport authorities have demanded changes to the ads that all but cover the presidents face. Russia Today has responded rather creatively, and they clearly taunt the country of free speech by having overlaid the image with the text To see the uncensored version, go to RT.com.
The UK's Guardian has described the whole affair in the following way: There is Barack Obama's head, on it superimposed the image of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's leader. The slogan reads: "Who poses the greatest nuclear threat?"
For many people the answer is clear – after all, Obama hasn't so far called for Israel to "vanish from the page of time". But for the Kremlin the Obama image is the latest step in an ambitious attempt to create a new post-Soviet global propaganda empire.
Two decades after the demise of Pravda, the Kremlin's 24-hour English language TV channel, Russia Today (RT), is launching its first major advertising blitz across the UK. Dubbed North Korean TV by its detractors, the channel, available on satellite and cable TV, gives an unashamedly pro-Vladimir Putin view of the world, and says it seeks to correct the "biased" western view offered by the BBC and CNN.
Another ad superimposes and ice-bear and an alien creature and reads "Climate Change: Science Fact or Science Fiction?", whereas the UK is especially targeted with the image of a policemen and a demonstrator.
For all those who have not in reality encountered the images that are at the campaigns heart, they can all be seen on the RT website, where even animated Flash versions are available. To the one or other among viewers, these ads will provide interesting food for thought, yet they may also spark off much critique and may perhaps even anger some people. Viewers discretion is advised!
It is, after all, an open propaganda war that's playing out here, with the Russian government planning to spend $1.4 billion (£866m) on international campaigns for hearts and minds. Also, RT is launching a Spanish language service aimed at Latin America, and the channel already has broadcasts in Arabic.
As for the US censorship, one might of course have serious doubts whether or not a similar ad campaign could run in the Russian Federation; if Putin would - for example - be featured alongside Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao - or Medvedev with Schwarzenegger next to the text "Red Heat or Raw Deal?"