A local man checks out the periodicals at the USIS American
Library in Peshawar, Pakistan, circa 1980s.
What did Ben Franklin know about selling America's values overseas? And how did a Cold War-era jazz show, and an army of librarians... boost America's image abroad? And what's the real message of those horses? In this multimedia piece, Gregory Warner uncovers highlights from America's attempts to advertise itself then and now. (13 minutes).
In 2002, many balked when President Bush appointed Charlotte Beers, the Madison Ave guru and celebrated "queen of branding" to improve America's image overseas.
Beers launched a blitz of pro-American TV spots and Hi, an Arabic language news magazine, but the campaign foundered amid scathing commentary in the U.S. press. "The U.S. can't be sold as a brand, like Cheerios," stormed the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board, and in the LA Times, Naomi Klein, author of the international best-seller No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, alleged that Beers' efforts smacked of Nazi-style propaganda machines.
In the LA Times, Naomi Klein, author of best-seller, No Logo, alleged that Beers' efforts smacked of Nazi-style propaganda machines.
But it wasn't the first time that advertising techniques had been used to sell America overseas. Ben Franklin, who has been called "America's first PR man," used marketing techniques to sell the French on the Revolutionary War. And during the Cold War, America launched one of the most ambitious public relations program ever attempted... building libraries around the world to showcase the best culture that America had to offer.
In "Advertising Democracy," radio producer Gregory Warner interviews former librarians and ambassadors, cultural diplomacists and middle east experts to chart the ups and downs of America's greatest Ad Campaign... itself. (13:00 minutes)