By Published on .

The U.S. government is still holding out the promise of using advertising as a weapon in the war on terrorism abroad, but so far that particular broad-brush armament is seeing limited combat duty.

The U.S. has expanded its public relations and media outreach activities abroad, but it hasn't turned to advertising as the primary vehicle. That's despite the presence of longtime ad executive Charlotte Beers as undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Most of the ad effort is taking place within the U.S., where the Advertising Council has developed several new ad campaigns and has another slated to start in January. The Ad Council has turned to Phil Dusenberry, chairman of Omnicom Group's BBDO North America, to recruit creatives for two others.

A new National Security Agency ad campaign-aimed at government data contractors and using "a loose lips sink ships" theme-appears to be on temporary hold. Neither the NSA nor the ad agency, Trahan, Burden & Charles in Baltimore, would comment.

Ms. Beers, in unveiling the State Department's Rewards for Justice public service ad campaign last week, said she hoped to take the U.S. radio and print ads, translate them and run them abroad. The U.S. campaign, done by WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide at the request of the Ad Council, offers rewards for information leading to the capture of terrorists and is getting heavy exposure with donations of space and time in newspapers and on radio. Logos for the U.S. campaign were created in Spanish, English and Arabic, but Ms. Beers said she wants to translate the ad campaign itself into 30 languages and run it abroad as well as in the U.S.

"When necessary, we will use paid media," she said. "We have other kinds of outlets, matchbook covers, etc. We will just have to see if we can engage the media in various parts of the world in terms of letting us run this. ... National advertisers in the United States have time they may contribute. We have many opportunities to get into the media in some less expected, unorthodox ways."

Ms. Beers also again said she would like to see a second ad campaign communicate to the Arab world "what Muslim life in America is about."

Ms. Beers has talked several times of the possibility of the U.S. running ads on Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arabic satellite news channel, and Al Jazeera has expressed interest in running them (AA, Oct. 21). While that still could happen, there was no indication last week that it will be done anytime soon.

There are questions on where the government could turn for any overseas ads.

Peggy Conlon, president-CEO of the Ad Council, said because any U.S. advertising effort overseas would likely have to use paid media, the Ad Council under its charter wouldn't ask ad agencies to donate their creative as it does for unpaid public service ad campaigns in the U.S.

"We have an agreement that if the media is paid, we won't do pro bono work," she said.

Ms. Conlon added the State Department should really deal with ad agencies in the area it wants to run advertising if it wants to get the best creative.

Despite the lack of international advertising, messages inside the U.S. are continuing. The Ad Council at the request of the Bush administration is moving ahead with plans for additional messages.

Ms. Conlon, who notes the normal turnaround time for Ad Council campaigns is about six months, said ads reflecting the terrorist attacks were produced and aired in considerably less time, but that the turnaround time is extending as the creative message changes.

"We are not doing what we felt the need to do in the beginning, which was shooting talking heads," she said.

One new Ad Council campaign prepared with the National Crime Prevention Council breaks in early January and was prepared with considerably more involvement from the White House and the Justice Department than is usual, Ms. Conlon said. The campaign from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, suggests ways people can make their neighborhoods stronger and uses the theme line, "United for a stronger America."

Mr. Dusenberry is recruiting creatives for two Ad Council campaigns. One, requested by the council, highlights the freedoms the country was founded on; spots are likely to come from multiple ad agencies. The other, requested by Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security, and developed by the Ad Council, picks up on the Bush administration's call for people to volunteer to help communities; it will likely come from a single agency.

The Ad Council may still do an anti-racism campaign tied to discrimination against people from the Middle East, but that is on hold for now.

"We did a lot of talking with Charlotte in the beginning to do a campaign domestically to show how people of Middle East [descent] are accepted and totally, not only tolerated but embraced, but she has really been absorbed on international fronts. Once she gets to it, we are ready," said Ms. Conlon.

The Ad Council is also continuing with several earlier terrorism-related ads including a "talk to your children" spot featuring Laura Bush from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide; an "I am an American" spot from Omnicom's GSD&M, Austin, Texas; and two spots from the Live Brave Coalition, one from McCann and the other from Ogilvy.

TV networks and movie studios are either airing or preparing to air public service messages, and there has been talk of some movie studios preparing anti-terrorism messages for foreign audiences. But people involved say those plans are fluid.

Most Popular
In this article: