Some Advertisers Capitalizing on Summit Mania

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Along with the receiving lines and press briefings associated with meetings of U.S. and Soviet leaders, summit-related advertising has also become a mainstay of such high-profile events.

This week's superpower summit between President George Bush and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev triggered what has become a familiar rush of ads. The advertisers range from vodka distillers to sellers of household linens out to capture some of the attention that surrounds these meetings.

In full-page newspaper ads, the 3-D Bed & Bath company ran a photo of Bush and Gorbachev over a quote from company founder Bernard Abrams that read: "If they find themselves in hot water this week, don't worry. I've got plenty of towels to dry them off."

"Does it bring us business?" asks Abrams, president of the Costa Mesa-based chain. "That's not the purpose. We are getting store recognition from this sort of thing. It puts our name before the public."

Vodka distillers have found summits between Soviet and U.S. leaders a natural for promoting their products.

Stolichnaya, which is imported into the United States by Pepsico, has run ads during the two past summits. During the current meeting, Stolichnaya's full-page newspaper ads are featuring two cocktail glasses with swizzle sticks bearing the American and Soviet flags and the headline "Sometimes the best relationships start on the rocks."

"The ads probably help the (product's) visibility, and there is certainly publicity value about it," said Lisa Kovitz, a Stolichnaya spokeswoman.

Many ad executives have questioned the long-term value of such ads. The critics, however, have not stopped companies from spending a lot of money associating themselves with summits.

During Gorbachev's meeting with President Ronald Reagan in December, 1987, Parker Pens ran $500,000 worth of full-page ads touting the fact that the two leaders used the company's pens to sign a treaty aimed at eliminating intermediate-range nuclear weapons. The ads were topped with the headline, "The pen is mightier than the sword."

But even such short-lived ad campaigns can influence sales. After Stolichnaya ads ran during the December, 1987, summit, the company's sales jumped 41% that month, Kovitz said.

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