Having a skilled ad professional-Charlotte Beers-in the key communications post at the U.S. State Department should help jump-start the process. Having the Advertising Council, since World War II the ad industry's "mobilization" committee for meeting national needs, ready to start long-term work is another good sign. But it's not enough. It takes the client to get things moving, and the client-the U.S. government-needs to act swiftly to create a central body to identify, coordinate, prioritize and plan the messages that need to get out.
Domestically, government officials now have what every marketer wants: an audience that is hungry for information, that wants to know what to do and that's willing to do it. This interest needs to be directed and channeled-just the task for advertising and for the talents and media the Ad Council can muster. But the council needs a client that brings the full gamut of programs together-from public-health scares and airport security to mutual understanding programs aimed at Muslim and non-Muslim Americans.
Globally, the communications challenge is more complex and the audience more skeptical and hostile. The tools will be more varied-from today's leaflet drops and radio broadcasts in Afghanistan and appearances by U.S. officials in Islamic media to longer-range future programs, perhaps including ads. All of this requires a commitment of years.
The first step remains to be taken, however: The client must get its objectives in order. There's a natural steering committee that should be activated immediately: Ms. Beers and new homeland security chief Tom Ridge. The ad industry awaits your call.