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For a country that would claim to have mastered the language of advertising, the United States hasn't proven itself very adept at selling political ideas. When persuasion needs a graphic boost, the 21th-century spinmeister's state-of-the-art response is to order up one of those digitally-printed backdrops festooned with a step-and-repeat pattern of a slogan like, say, "Corporate Responsibility."
The principle is right out of the moldy playbook of American Tobacco's George Washington Hill, who attempted to browbeat mid-century America ("Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco!") into universal lung cancer through the same kind of mindless repetition. (There are exceptions: sometimes just one big banner will do, perhaps supported by an appropriate costume change
With the winning of global hearts and minds still a national priority, the nomination of longtime Bush confidante Karen Hughes to the position of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs — a role originally filled, to less-than-widespread-acclaim
, by Madison Avenue veteran Charlotte Beers — does little to reassure.
That's what makes the billboard above so astonishing...