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West Wing Endorse ment A Coup? Readers Think Not

T he product group director for Johnnie Walker thinks the product placement for Johnnie Walker Blue in NBC's The West Wing was a coup [Dec. 17], but I wonder.

In the scene, the character Leo McGarry, President Bartlet's chief of staff and an alcoholic, first rebuffs an offer of a drink, but then relents. After his guests leave his hotel room, he empties the room's mini-bar and becomes stumbling drunk.

Wasn't it the fear of promoting this kind of irresponsible use of alcohol that led to the voluntary ban from television of hard-liquor ads?

If hard liquor is returning to television in ads and product placements, the industry will need to be much more sensitive than it was in this instance.

Peter Post

CEO

Cossette Post Communications

New York

A ny sane person who watched the Dec. 12 episode of The West Wing would wonder how the hell Johnnie Walker scotch could think its product placement was beneficial. One sip causes McGarry, a recovering alcoholic, to go on a drunken binge that, years later, almost humiliates him in front of a congressional committee. And this is supposedly good publicity for an alcoholic beverage? Nothing in this business makes sense anymore.

Jack Purdy

Editorial Director

Ogilvy Public Relations

Washington

Absolut Ads, Sistine Chapel: What's the Difference?

Somewhere in the debate over whether advertising is art or not [A&C, Nov. 12], the difference between intention and essence seems to have been confused. While the intention of advertising is commerce, its essence is artistic. This does not make it different from art, much of which has also been created, either explicitly or implicitly, with commercial intent. It merely makes advertising one more art form in the service of commerce.

If you can get past that, and the surface absurdity of a strained comparison, there is not really that great a difference between an Absolut ad and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Both were paid for by wealthy patrons, who were willing to pay because doing so held the promise of delivering a powerful message to many people who could make them even wealthier.

Greg Thomas
Creative Director
Brokaw Inc.
Cleveland