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'Selling' U.S. no answer

Re: "The Selling of America" (AA, Dec. 17). This is disgusting and there's no point mincing words. Advertising and public relations is not the answer. It never was and it never will be. You cannot brand your way out of terrorism, international meddling or hatred. In fact, the very idea of a megashop exec (who's paid to make money for shareholders) in charge of such an assignment is ludicrous.

The United States, like any other so-called "brand," cannot lie and win. You can't claim that Wonder Bread cures AIDS. And you can't claim that the U.S. doesn't commit crimes all over the planet and gloss over it with some damn campaign. But to be American is to deny wrongdoing. However, "feel good" global marketing won't fix anything. Only actions will.

Consider this fact: Over 3,000 precious souls perished in 9/11's terrorism (per CNN). Every day, according to the United Nations, over 35,000 children die from hunger. That's 1,458 each hour. Over 900 died in the time it took to write this. Or in the time you took to read this. But even if you reject those numbers, go ahead-make it "only" 5,000 per day.

Where are the minutes of silence before a sports event? Where is the news media saturation? Where's the sense of fear and panic in our land? Where's the stock market reaction? Where's the ad campaign about this?

They say we get the government we deserve. But our government will probably never get the advertising it deserves.

Paul MacFarlane

Co-Owner/Managing Director

MacFarlane Cohn

The 12.01 Experiment

St. Louis

Switch `war' target from terrorism to racism

From an Arab perspective, most of the approaches bandied about by [the] experts in "The Selling of America" (AA, Dec. 17) were ... misguided. The Arabs hate America because we support their enemy, Israel. Why? Getting to know your customer reveals that they hate Israel because Israel discriminates against and oppresses Arabs. America presents the image of the hypocrite. Here we are, land of the free, actively supporting Israeli racism. This product won't sell. As one Texan put it, "you can put your boots in the oven, but that don't make `em biscuits."

Solution: The war on terrorism is over. Take the moral high ground. Declare war on discrimination and racism. The Arab world cherishes fighting for principles and won't buy anything until they get a victory. Own up to the fact that they have legitimate gripes and terrorism will go away, just like the ERA and Black Panthers did here. Plan on a 40-year campaign with lots of incentives like affirmative action and controversial court cases. Only then can your customer actually like or trust the company making a product that meets their needs.

Traditional brand strategy is totally inappropriate here, especially if you think USA is the brand. Fill your customers' need (desire for respect and equality) with a great product (war on prejudice), and the company (USA) will accrue value through association.

Bert Cox


Advantage Business Development

Manchester, N.H.

Why it's a hard sell

One of the big reasons why it is hard to sell America to the Muslim world was demonstrated in "View from the Middle East" (AA, Dec. 17).

Whenever you talk to any Arab "expert" in the Middle East, the second word he utters is "Israel," as in "It's Israel's fault!" Mr. [Roy] Haddad [CEO of WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, Beirut], demonstrated he is no exception. It took him exactly 29 words to reach the conclusion that because [the U.S. is] helping Israel it is going to fail in its efforts to sell America. Yes, it's Israel's fault!

The next big reason why we find it hard to succeed is the simple fact that the Arab world audience totally ignores facts. According to [Mr. Haddad's] "facts," Israel gets $5 billion [in U.S. aid] and the entire Arab world gets only $1 billion. Where he looked to get this information is beyond me. I can certainly appreciate the notion that, in order to be successful in talking to [Middle East audiences], one needs to use emotions rather than rational thinking. After all, rational thinking does include facts.

I do not expect Mr. Haddad to take any responsibility for what he says. But I would expect Ad Age to include better "experts" in its good articles.

Ilan Geva


CMYK & Beyond


Wrong numbers from the Middle East disturbing

Ad Age's otherwise interesting cover story on "The Selling of America" (AA, Dec. 17) was marred by the surprisingly slanted and factually incorrect "View from the Middle East." ...

It was particularly disappointing to see an agency CEO spreading misinformation under the guise of factual commentary. I'm referring to Mr. Haddad's "equation"-that the U.S. "invests $1 billion in the Arab world, and $5 billion goes to Israel." While aid to Israel is substantial-approximately $3 billion (and falling)-the U.S. has been providing more than $2 billion each year to Egypt alone, along with additional aid to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, among others. In 1991, the U.S. made a substantial investment in human and economic capital to liberate Kuwait and defend Saudi Arabia. And, while we're on the subject of historical accuracy, when on earth were the Soviets the "No. 1 enemy" to the Arabs?

Most disturbing about this piece is that it was written by the person charged with running WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson operations in the Middle East and North Africa. At this critical time, someone in such a position of expertise can play a vital role in helping Americans gain insight into the culture, language, religion and politics of that region. Unfortunately, Mr. Haddad has failed to provide that insight.

Stuart Naar

New York

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