Saturday, August 28, 2004

Dangerous Delusions: Advertising Nonsense about Advertising America

by Lawrence Pintak
Published on Friday, August 27, 2004 by

The question of how the U.S. communicates its message to the Muslim world is arguably the most vital issue facing the nation today. It is therefore deeply disturbing when the debate is muddied by dangerously misleading pseudo-science.

"University Study Shows Advertising Can Improve U.S. Image Abroad; Controversial Campaign By Charlotte Beers Shown Effective in Experiment," proclaimed a press release jointly issued this week by Southern Methodist University and Oklahoma State University.

Within 24 hours, the story was being carried around the world. Quoting directly from the press release, reported: "A new study shows that a U.S. government advertising campaign may have been successful in changing certain anti-American sentiments abroad. This runs contrary to the U.S. government's decision to drop the ads because they were considered ineffective."

In fact, the $15 million "Shared Values" initiative (SVI) - dubbed the "Happy Muslims" campaign for its antiseptic profiles of Muslims living in the U.S. - sparked a firestorm of outrage across the Muslim world, forcing the government to pull the ads and ultimately leading to the resignation of State Department PR guru Charlotte Beers, a former Madison Ave. ad exec.

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