State Dept. Bypasses Advertising, PR Execs

Commission to improve U.S. image will not include industry experts

While some lawmakers called for advertising and public relations experts to sit on a commission that will advise Congress how America can improve its image among Arabs and Muslims, not one appears on the list the State Department plans to release officially this week.

The State Department on Friday confirmed the 13 names on the list, which is dominated by foreign-policy and academic experts.

“It raises concerns about being top-heavy on policy and weak on media advertising expertise,” said one House Republican aide.

Ad-industry executives under consideration for the commission were Tim Love, vice chairman international of Saatchi & Saatchi; John McNeel, worldwide account director on Mars at TBWA\Chiat\Day; and Dick O’Brien, evp of the Washington office of the American Association of Advertising Agencies [Adweek, June 16].

Also considered were marketing executives Rob Malcolm, president of global marketing, sales and innovation at Diageo, and Qaisar Shareef, a marketing director at Procter & Gamble.

Love said he believes the lack of an advertising expert on the commission, named the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World, may stem from a misconception about the business within the State Department.

“I think there is a fear that people in the advertising industry are shallow capitalists, and that it’s business and the almighty dollar first,” said Love, who ran Procter & Gamble’s worldwide business for now-defunct D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles from 1992-99. “In truth, a true advertising professional understands that you cannot successfully market a product if it doesn’t live up to what people need and want.”

Love said that while the commission is pursuing a worthy goal, he hopes its members will consult with ad-industry executives as it prepares its report, due Oct. 1.

McNeel wondered whether the tenure of Charlotte Beers as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, widely considered a failure, played a role in the selection process. “I would hope that the government is not dismissing out of hand people with an advertising background because previous efforts did not bear fruit,” said McNeel, who ran Saatchi’s Middle East division from 1995-2000.

During Beers’ 17-month tenure, she was ridiculed for her plan to sell America to the Muslim world as a brand, an approach praised by Congress but loathed by foreign-policy experts who felt it trivialized their work. Beers resigned in March.

The 4A’s’ O’Brien referred calls to the State Department.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., requested the commission in Congress’ appropriations bill, which passed in February. Calls to Wolf’s office were not returned.

In the bill, Congress asked for a commission consisting of “individuals with extensive expertise in public diplomacy, media, public relations and the region.” Communications executives named to the panel have a journalism rather than a PR or media-buying background.

On June 5, the State Department named Edward Djerejian, director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and a former ambassador to Syria and Israel, chairman of the commission. Djerejian was not available for comment.

The commission will also include former ambassador David Abshire, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency; Stephen Cohen of the Israel Policy Forum; former ambassador Diana Lady Dougan, chairman of the Cyber Century Forum; Mamoun Fandy, a media analyst and syndicated columnist; James Glassman of the American Enterprise Institute and former publisher of The New Republic; Malik Hasan, chairman of HealthTrio, a Web-based health-management company; Farhad Kazemi, professor of politics and Middle Eastern studies at New York University; Judy Milestone, a media consultant to Turner Broadcasting; Harold Pachios of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy; George Salem, partner at Washington law firm Akin Gump; Shibley Telhami, professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Maryland; John Zogby of the polling firm Zogby International; and Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria.