The USO Enlists Williams Whittle

The USO has selected Williams Whittle Associates to create a national public-awareness campaign without a formal review.

The Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization began looking for an agency after John Hanson, senior vice president for marketing and communications, and chief executive officer Ed Powell joined the group earlier this year. There was no incumbent.

WWA, in Alexandria, Va., presented a video featuring entertainers historically associated with the USO, including Bob Hope, the Andrews Sisters, Ann Margaret, Jay Leno and Robin Williams, intercut with images of American soldiers overseas and coming home. The piece was set to the music of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound.”

“We’re working with his people to get the rights [to the song],” said agency president and chief executive officer Rob Whittle.

The public-service effort, tagged “Until every one comes home,” is slated to launch in first-quarter 2003. The campaign will include television, radio, print and collateral components.

“If you know the USO, you know there’s nothing not to like,” said Whittle. “It’s the bridge between the military and thecitizens.”

One reason the client wants an image campaign is because research conducted by the organization revealed an 80 percent lack of familiarity with the brand, according to Whittle.

“We’re in a bit of a strange situations,” said Hanson. “Our research shows a good-news/bad-news scenario. Many people don’t know who we are, but those who do think very highly of what we do.”