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Meet America's New CMO

Longtime adman Chris Perkins tapped to promote U.S. tourism

Chris Perkins |

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Citizens of America, meet your chief marketing officer. Chris Perkins, longtime adman, has moved to the client side in a newly minted role at the Corporation for Travel Promotion, a private-public partnership dedicated to promoting the United States, all of them, as a tourist destination.

Perkins, an accounts and strategy veteran with more than two decades of experience at agencies like Arnold and Publicis, most recently spent over two years as CEO of Blitz Media, a media planning and buying shop. He has worked with such quintessentially American brands as McDonald’s, Jeep, and Barnum & Bailey. While he doesn’t dive into his new gig full-time until Sept. 22, he’s already more than willing to get a little patriotic in public. “What better job is there out there than—as a marketing guy—being able to represent the country that I was born in and love?” he tells Adweek. “It’s about the most pure expression of what I do that I can imagine.”

So what will America’s advertising look like? Perkins isn’t quite ready to talk details; the official unveiling of CTP’s branding strategy isn’t until November. The campaign itself, which is being created by JWT, will break in March 2012. It doesn’t sound like the focus will fall on pushing local destinations (some of which have their own tourism bodies), but rather, as Perkins puts it, “representing the true greatness of America”—from sea to shining sea. “We’re in the business of selling the whole as opposed to the parts, and obviously when you sell the whole, the parts come along with it,” he says.

With a budget of $200 million, the CTP, a nonprofit formed in 2010 by an act of Congress, will be funded by a mix of sources, including companies that profit from tourism—board members include execs from Amtrak and United Airlines—as well as the federal government, which uses cash raised from fees for foreigners visiting the U.S.

As for how the CTP intends to address any U.S. image issues abroad, he adds, “We’re doing due diligence on what they are on a country-by-country basis because they’re unique.”