|Photo: Doug Goodman|
| DDB Worldwide Chairman Keith Reinhard has created a new industry organization to fight anti-Americanism abroad.
GLOBAL CONSUMER REGARD FOR U.S. BRANDS DECLINES
New Study Findings Are 'Warning Sign' For Marketers Says Research Chief
The nonprofit group, Business for Diplomatic Action, is the brainchild of DDB Worldwide Chairman Keith Reinhard, who originally envisioned the project in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Officially incorporated in January of this year, with Mr. Reinhard as president, the group has about 150 members; half are executives at marketing corporations and the remainder are advertising agency heads and academics.
The move comes after a several of the group's members at last week's NOP World conference heard the findings of the latest annual survey of global consumer attitudes by the market research organization. The survey found that regard for American culture and products was declining. The research chief presenting the findings termed the findings a "warning sign" to American marketers.
Mr. Reinhard, who was a speaker at the daylong NOP World conference, said Business for Diplomatic Action planned a Web site where corporations could exchange information to "help them be good citizens of a country vs. bad tourists," and that would offer free classes to teach foreign children English and technology.
The organization's board met yesterday to discuss different initiatives and their price tags. The group would like to collect another $2 million for an in-depth category- and brand-specific global study because many top executives doubt foreign sentiment affects sales, Mr. Reinhard said.
Indeed, representatives from Gillette and Kraft at the NOP conference said anti-Americanism has not affected their companies because many of their brands abroad, such as Kraft's Tang in Saudi Arabia, are perceived as homegrown rather than as an American export.
But NOP World's managing director, Tom Miller, said the latest study found that there has not been a massive boycott of U.S. goods around the world but instead there has been a broad and quieter "erosion of support" for U.S. culture and brands and that "it is clearly a warning sign."
Cari Eggspuehler, executive director of Business For Diplomatic Action, indicated that the group believed problems would be felt "five years down the road -- not next quarter."
She said many of the companies involved in the new coalition feel it "is their way to take part in the war on terrorism." Ms. Eggspuehler, a cyber-terrorism expert who worked with onetime Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Charlotte Beers, said most executives had been receptive, though some had argued there must be no problem because their sales had not atrophied.
Ms. Eggspuehler said her group also would encourage media companies to produce shows that better represented how Americans really live, rather than Baywatch-like stereotypes, along with U.S. shows that made Americans more aware of other cultures and reasons for and ramifications of anti-American sentiment.
Reality TV show
On the drawing board is a pilot for a reality show to air on American TV, with college-age American expatriates trying to navigate the vagaries of working for foreign companies while foreigners do the same here.
Also ready for distribution is the passport-sized World Citizen's Guide, which would be distributed to the 200,000 American students studying abroad annually to make them sensitive to how America fits into the world stage. The guide includes tidbits of information, such as the observation that if the world were comprised of only 100 people, only one person would be American.