Imagine a b-to-b ad along the lines of this one:
âDo you trust Drip Corp.? We sure donât. An editorial last summer in Water Filtration Systems called Drip a âwet mess waiting to happen.â And customers are still steaming about Dripâs infamous âdry mountâ products. Put Drip out to dry. Call Crystal Water Suppliesâan honest company that really cares about your water-filtration needs.â
The closest Iâve seen to a political attack ad that isnât for a political candidate is one from Voices For Choices, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition that includes long-distance companies AT&T, Sprint and WorldCom. The TV and print ads compare telecom giant SBC, which has operations in 13 states, to a wolf in sheepâs clothing. âWhat if the company crying wolf is the wolf?â asks the Voices For Choices TV spot, which ends with a memorable photo of a wolfâs head wearing sheepâs fur.
SBC began running its own political-style ads first. In a TV spot voiced by actor Tommy Lee Jones, SBC says it can handle natural disasters but not the âdisasterâ that it must support its competitors on its networks for less than cost.
While neither spot mentions it, both are about the Federal Communications Commission, which will rule on these issues at its triannual review of local phone companies early next year. Viewers Iâve talked to are puzzled by the dueling campaigns.
Meanwhile, halfway around the world, marketing is being used not to attack but to defend, to counter an increasingly virulent strain of anti-Americanism.
A $15 million U.S. State Department campaign highlighting the diversity of Muslim life in the U.S started late last month. The campaign was developed by Charlotte Beers, the State Departmentâs undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs and former chairman of WPP Groupâs J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. The agency behind the ads is Interpublic Group of Cos.â McCann-Erickson Worldwide.
The spots, which began airing Oct. 30 in Indonesia, will appear in a number of Muslim countries and in pan-Arab media. They are timed to begin during Ramadan, the month-long Muslim holiday.