Advertising's war on terrorism: the story of the U.S. State Department's Shared Values Initiative
Should Advertising Serve as a Weapon in the War on Terrorism? Shortly after the September 11th attacks, Charlotte Beers, a former advertising executive-turned-U.S.-State-Department-official, purchased $5 million of commercial airtime on Middle Eastern and Asian television stations. The goal of the Shared Values Initiative was to convince the Muslim and Arab world that America wasnt waging war on Islam. The Madison Avenue-produced ads depicted the happy lives of Muslims in America, including Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health (who is shown on the cover of this book shaking the hand of President George Bush in one of the spots). Some Arab governments called the SVI ads propa-ganda and refused to run them on their state-owned television systems. Many policy makers, bureaucrats, advertising executives and journalists also denounced SVI, claiming it couldnt work. Beers left the State Department and soon after the campaign was discontinued. In this book, advertising professors Jami Fullerton and Alice Kendrick take a dispassionate look at the controversy through internal State Department documents and interviews with Beers and other officials. The authors also present results from their own scientific studies on the effectiveness of the adsexperimental research that measured the attitudes of Muslim and other international students toward America before and after watching the commercials. To the surprise of many critics, the findings showed that students had a better impression of America after viewing the ads. Should America use advertising to fight the war on terrorism? The authors dont answer this question, but their book suggests that advertising should not be summarily dismissed as tool of international diplomacy.
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