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The Republican Congress' first 100 days and debate over the "Contract With America" are a rousing advertising and public relations success, no matter what resulting laws are eventually enacted, say industry executives.

Cautioning the impact of the quick series of House votes could yet be dwarfed by other issues in next year's presidential election and comedians' hammering at House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the executives were quick to compliment the Republicans.

"Their only mistake was in overpromising," said Martin Puris, chairman-CEO and chief creative officer of Lintas Worldwide and head of the ad team that advised President Bush's campaign three years ago. "You have to be a marketer. You can't promise what you can't deliver."

Republicans seized the initiative while Democrats sat, said David Altschiller, chairman-CEO of Altschiller & Co., New York, and a strong backer of Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election.

"Republicans have taken `vision' out of the Democratic Party hands and the sad part is that Bill Clinton has disappeared," he said. "Newt Gingrich is president of the United States in PR and advertising. There is more news about him on any given day than about Clinton."

Mr. Altschiller said he has become so upset he recently wrote the president urging him "to support the position I voted for you for."

House Republicans took advantage of the American people's feeling that government has lost its way, said Bob Dilenschneider, president of the Dilenschneider Group.

"They put a label on the concern of the American malaise and it is working," Mr. Dilenschneider said.

The Republican National Committee last weekend broke a TV spot on CNN and on Washington stations crowing about the conclusion of the 100 days. The $300,000 effort was handled by Smith & Haroff, Alexandria, Va.

"... The first Republican Congress in more than 40 years began by forcing Congress to live by the same rules as anyone else," said the spot. "Not bad .. for the first hundred days."

Meanwhile, Democrats and their supporters responded with their own ads.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week is running spots in just two areas: the districts of Republican Reps. Jay Dickey of Arkansas and Phil English of Pennsylvania.

The spots, accuse the two of having "marched in lockstep with Newt Gingrich" to cut school lunch, education and job training programs, and show the congressmen's photographs morphing into a picture of Mr. Gingrich. Greer, Margolis, Mitchell, Burns & Associates, Washington, created the spots.

The AFL-CIO's $500,000 print and TV campaign from Greer Margolis suggests workers pay attention to job, health and safety issues, not the rhetoric.

Environmental groups including the Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club have joined for what they say will be a nearly $2 million TV and radio campaign warning that the new Congress may set back the environmental cause by 25 years. Greer Margolis and John Franzen Multimedia, Washington, handle TV ads with Matt McWilliams, Cosgrove & Snyder Co., Tacoma Park, Wash., doing the radio ads.

While much of the Washington attention focused on the perception of change, advertising associations that watch Washington closely said so far the "Contract With America" has had few direct results for advertisers and marketers.

"This Congress has done more in its first 100 days, than some Congresses have done in whole sessions," said Hal Shoup, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "The public, which has expressed dissatisfaction with the way the federal government is going, has to be encouraged."

Mr. Shoup said for advertisers and marketers, the main impact seems to be in discouraging new regulations.

"Certainly there has been enormous pressure brought to bear on [the Food & Drug Administration] to loosen up on the marketing of pharmaceuticals. The FDA has been very restrictive and they are backing down from that."

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