No Brand USA Expected From New Diplomacy Chief

With Margaret Tutwiler’s nomination last week to replace Charlotte Beers as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, Washington insiders predict the State Department will place less emphasis on selling America’s image as a brand, a strategy that stirred controversy last year. And now even some ad executives say that’s a good thing.

“I don’t think we should be advertising,” said DDB Worldwide chairman Keith Reinhard, who is leading a private-sector task force to counter anti-American sentiment abroad. “I think we should be listening and, based on what we hear, modifying behavior where possible.”

Dick O’Brien, evp of the Washington office of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, agrees that the situation has changed for the worse since the government’s “Shared Values” campaign broke last year. “It is not an advertising job we are facing right now,” he said, “because the nature of the anger toward America is so deep that it requires a solution that is more complex than advertising alone.”

Congressional sources expect Tutwiler will face few hurdles at her Senate confirmation hearing, likely to take place in the next two or three weeks. Unlike Beers, whose marketing background and lack of foreign policy experience made her an outsider at the State Department, career diplomat Tutwiler has the ear of both Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush.

Tutwiler served as a special communications adviser to Bush as well as his father. She was also assistant secretary of state for public affairs and a State Department spokeswoman during the first Bush administration and most recently served as U.S. ambassador to Morocco.

“She has an extremely good feel for the way this building works,” said Robert Tappan, a State Department representative.

The House of Representatives has proposed increasing the public diplomacy budget to $320 million next year, which includes U.S. public diplomacy efforts around the world. The figures pales in comparison with the Pentagon’s $67 billion supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq alone.

Among the many criticisms of Beers’ “Shared Values” campaign, with work done by New York agency McCann-Erickson, was that the $15 million spent on the effort was not nearly enough to sway the hearts and minds of anti-American Muslims.

“One of the questions we intend to ask her is, Right now, given the limited amount of money, what is the priority?” said Mark Helmke, a senior aide to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

It is also unclear what role Tutwiler will play if the White House follows the recommendation of a congressional public diplomacy commission, chaired by former ambassador to Syria and Israel Edward Djerejian, to create a public diplomacy czar, sources said. Tutwiler was unavailable for comment.

Sources said it took a lot to persuade Tutwiler to leave her Morocco post for a position that was a lightning rod for controversy under Beers. “She has let the word out that she comes reluctantly,” said one House Republican aide.

“She is lowering expectations so that she can come in and exceed expectations,” said the aide. “It’s a good political strategy.” The aide said Tutwiler is known for her “good ear for what is fact and what is spin. When she starts drumming her fingernails on the table, you know you have lost her attention.”