TBWA to tubthump Al-Jazeera Int’l

'Nightline' vet Marash to be senior news anchor in D.C.

Al-Jazeera Intl., the nascent spinoff of the Qatar-based Arabic cabler, has signed major ad firm TBWA to create a branding campaign for the news network in the U.S.

Web confirmed the hiring of former “Nightline” correspondent Dave Marash to become the senior news anchor in its Washington, D.C., broadcast center, which now sports more than 40 employees.

Net has established other broadcast centers in Doha (Qatar’s capital), Kuala Lumpur and London. Each will produce a quarter of the content for the 24-hour news channel, which will have a single, global feed.

The network is in carriage talks with cable and satellite operators in advance of a spring launch, but it battles a perception problem in the U.S., where the Al-Jazeera name is associated with the terrorist organizations that have used the net as the preferred outlet for their communiques.

AJI hopes TBWA, which created the Apple iPod and iTunes campaigns, will help change the brand perception in the U.S.

“Right now, the brand is strong in America, but it’s a brand based on misconception,” said Josh Rushing, the former U.S. Marine Corps captain who signed on as on-air talent for the net.

The emir of Qatar is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to establish an English-language news network, the first of its kind based outside the Western world.

Key to Al-Jazeera’s ambitions is to gain an audience in the U.S., but despite signing big names such as Marash, former CNN anchor Riz Khan and Brit broadcast legend David Frost, cable and satellite ops have doubts a significant audience exists for the web.

“In the U.S. the people we are expecting to attract are young people who are fed up with the staleness of mainstream news,” Oliver said.

At launch, Oliver expects to have at least one U.S. distribution deal in place, helping the net reach 40 million homes worldwide, including 8 million in the U.K. via a deal with satcaster BSkyB.

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