Ad Legend Jim Riswold Wants You to Fix Islam’s Image Problem

Jim Riswold, the creative mind behind some of television’s most successful advertising campaigns, says Islam has an image problem in America. And he wants you to do something about it - with a poster., a monthly, worldwide competition is holding a call for college students and working professionals to come up with creative solutions to issues briefs.

Each month a new high profile judge is selected. For December, the man with the score card is none other than Jim Riswold, executive director at W+K12, a well-known advertising agency that deals with clients such as Sony, Levis, Nike and many more. 

An outside the box thinker, the advertising guru’s prompt for this month reflects much of his personality. It is straight and to the point, stemming from one of America’s most devastating moments in recent history.

“Islam has an image problem. Fix it.”  

The prompt came about after Riswold saw someone wearing a hat that read, “All I need to know about Islam I learned on 9/11.”

In the 10 plus years since 9/11, a tragedy that fundamentally changed this nation, public opinion regarding Islam and Muslims remain at an all-time low, despite the overwhelming efforts by the American Muslim community to educate their non-Muslim neighbors about the faith of a billion practitioners worldwide.

Polls show that almost half of Americans still have a negative perception of Islam and that one in four of those surveyed have "extreme" anti-Muslim views.

In a recent study, Christopher Bail, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, illustrates that mainstream media has played a huge role in creating the negative representation of the Muslim in the mainstream.

“The vast majority of organizations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages, yet my study shows that journalists were so captivated by a small group of fringe organisations that they came to be perceived as mainstream,” says Bail.

The article highlights how the media tossed aside prominent Muslim voices, and pushed stories that gave rise to the rampant Islamophobia that permeates the national discourse.

“Anti-Muslim fringe organizations dominated the mass media via displays of fear and anger,” says Bail.

Of the fringe groups, the most damage has seemingly come from one woman and her feverish attempts at making clear that Islam is a threat.

Meet Pamela Gellar, New York resident and political blogger at Atlas Shrugs. She has gone from swaying public opinion on a national level, to publicly defaming Islam, and that too with much ease.

Her influence on the American public goes back to a controversy over whether a proposed Islamic center should be built two blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.

Gellar’s latest act of terror, and most troubling, is an ad running in the subways of New York, depicting the World Trade Center exploding in the background, and in the forefront, with bold lettering, a verse from the Qur’an.

While groups such as the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Anti-Defamation League, and CAIR, have expressed their concern and outrage over Gellar’s actions, many of her actions have been protected by constitutional rights.

“The world doesn’t need any more hate. It’s met its quota on that one,” says Riswold.

The ad legend, who has worked with the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Microsoft, to name a few, is doing something beyond just a first place prize.

Riswold is giving the world’s creatives a chance to counter the hate through art and become part of the solution.

Win or lose, participants will have invested their minds into this, and will hopefully walk away with newfound insight on Islam.

Good luck fellas!