Ad Group May Help Sell U.S. to Muslim, Arab Countries
The Bush administration, fearing that it might lose the public relations war in Muslim and Arab nations to Osama bin Laden, is turning to Madison Avenue for help.
The State Department is talking to the Advertising Council, a New York-based nonprofit group that develops advertising strategies for national causes, about crafting a “public diplomacy” campaign on the military action in Afghanistan and the war on terrorism.
Overseeing those talks is Charlotte Beers, the new undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and a former J. Walter Thompson advertising executive who started in the industry marketing Uncle Ben’s Rice. Beers was named to the post by President Bush early in his administration and was sworn in Oct. 2.
Her job is to sell America, a difficult task in some Arab and Muslim countries where citizens are protesting the U.S. military response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“I think the fact is, there is a battle for hearts and minds,” said Philip T. Reeker, a State Department spokesman. “There’s a lot of disinformation. . . . The difficulties we face in getting our message out are quite clear.”
Several advertising executives and media analysts say the administration’s increased efforts will do little to sway Muslims and Arabs overseas, many of whom say their distrust of the United States goes beyond the situation in Afghanistan.