Trying to Change the Face of the Ugly American
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It's not every day you get to have dinner with an advertising legend.
"You deserve a break today." "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." "Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun!"
Those are just a few of the famous ad campaign slogans that DDB Worldwide Chairman Emeritus Keith Reinhard was the creative force behind.
But judging by the kick-off dinner here in Austin last night for "Chaos: New Agendas in Advertising," a conference hosted by the University of Texas at Austin's Center for Brand Research and GSD&M, a prominent Austin-based ad agency, Mr. Reinhard may be saving his best campaign for last.
Though the dinner conversation rambled across all sorts of timely and fascinating topics (including my recent favorites, exploring virtual worlds), and included the participation of several prominent UT professors as well as some very thoughtful agency and client siders from the Left, Third, and East Coasts, it was Mr. Reinhard's commitment to changing the face of the ugly American overseas that most caught my attention, and one firmly rooted and with very real implications in the real world.
Reinhard has been the driving force behind an organization called "Business for Diplomatic Action" (BDA), a private-sector task force led by preeminent business leaders working to counter the increasing prevalence of anti-Americanism that has appeared on the flattened earth landscape post 9/11.
The argument? Anti-Americanism is bad for business, plain and simple. It brings unnecessary increased security and economic costs at a time when we can ill afford them, and hurts America's ability to recruit the best and brightest.
The BDA effort, however, is not about selling -- it's about sensitizing Americans to this trend, and helping educate American citizens as to how they can counter them through their own conduct and through public, but personal diplomacy.
So, the next time you're in Paris strolling along the Champs d'Elysses in your spiffy white sneakers desperately in search of a cup of ice for that Coca-Cola in your hand, consider grabbing a bottle of Evian instead or, better yet, a nice glass of vin rouge.
And hold the freedom fries.