Appointment of Former Top Ad Executive Raises Eyebrows

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WASHINGTON ( -- Is the State Department a product that needs better branding?

Secretary of State Colin Powell thinks so, and he is making the branding of the department an unusual

Photo: AP..
Colin Powell wants some marketing muscle.
goal of his administration. The Bush administration's naming of former J. Walter Thompson Co. Chairman Charlotte Beers to be assistant secretary of public diplomacy has raised a number of curious questions. For instance, will the department be rolling out a major advertising campaign any time soon?

'Failure to explain'
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says no. He explained that "branding" doesn't mean spending millions for an ad campaign. He said Secretary Powell is instead calling on Ms. Beers because he believes the department's difficulty in getting funding from Congress stems in part from a failure to explain its mission at home and abroad.

In his public comments, Mr. Powell hasn't been more specific about exactly how he planned to manage the "branding" project. Like most nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, Ms. Beers, who served on the board of Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. with Mr. Powell for several years, declined to be interviewed.

"What we need to do in the new age is to reach out a little farther," said Mr. Boucher. "We need to reach out to constituency groups for whom we open up markets so they tell people who don't know what we are doing."

'To know us is to love us'
"The State Department has taken the view that to know us is to love us," he added. "If we explain ourselves, people will automatically see

Photo: AP..
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher: 'To know us is to love us.'
the virtue of what we are doing."

He said that overseas the department also needs to be better understood. "Internationally, we want to be identified in terms of the positive role we play," he said.

While Ms. Beers won't have an ad campaign to get across the message, she will have other tools at her disposal. The State Department sponsors speakers at home and abroad and uses Internet sites and visits to the U.S. from overseas groups to generate publicity.

Ms. Beers may have no foreign service experience, but as a veteran ad agency executive, she has diplomatic experience. Ms. Beers rejoined WPP Group's JWT as chairman in March 1999 and had been chairman-CEO of WPP's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide from 1992-1997. A veteran of Tatham Laird & Kudner, Chicago (since evolved into Havas Advertising's Euro RSCG Tatham), she served in posts including chief operating officer and CEO.

In her diplomatic appointment, Ms. Beers will replace Evelyn S. Lieberman, who departed with the Clinton administration.

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