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If only corporate CEOs believed in the power of advertising as much as the CEO of the U.S., Bill Clinton, does.

President Clinton, we now learn, played the role of ad director of the Democratic National Committee's $44 million ad blitz that enabled him to "steal" the election, The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot contended the other week.

The campaign was financed by all the money President Clinton and Vice President Gore worked so diligently to solicit at White House kaffee klatsches and other cozy events in and out of the Oval Office.

While agency executives complain that they're having a hard time getting the attention of top management clients, President Clinton immersed himself in every detail of the advertising process. He not only raised the money, but he approved scripts for the TV commercials and devised a media plan.

And he took obvious pride in the results. At one of those videotaped sessions with big-money donors at the White House, President Clinton bragged that the ad campaign "has been central to the position I now enjoy at the polls."

The so-called "soft money" that the president and vice president raised by the bushel baskets was supposed to be used to support general political party-building activities, such as "issue" ads-not for specific candidates.

The Democratic TV spots, however, ran early and often (they began a year-and-a-half before the 1996 elections and ran in states where President Clinton was unpopular) and bashed Sen. Dole and Rep. Gingrich for their stands on Medicare and education. And, as the Journal noted, "they just happened to be produced by the same consultants who wrote the hard-money Clinton campaign ads."

Stated Mr. Gigot: "If you believe that TV ads are decisive in politics-and Mr. Clinton says on tape he believes it-the president stole his re-election as slyly as any Chicago ward boss ever did. In this age of media politics, breaking campaign-finance laws to run tens of millions of dollars in TV spots is the moral and practical equivalent of stuffing ballot boxes."

What a ringing endorsement of the power of advertising! In his book, "Behind the Oval Office," former Clinton strategist Dick Morris wrote that the key to Clinton's victory was his early television advertising. "There never has been anything even remotely like it in the history of presidential elections," Mr. Morris modestly stated.

If only corporate chieftains understood they could in effect stuff the ballot box by employing aggressive advertising programs. President Clinton acknowledges he kept his job because of advertising, but his counterparts in private enterprise haven't caught onto the fact that advertising run often and early can make the difference in their own product campaigns.

CEOs should also take note that playing a more proactive role in the budgeting

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