. The Transom .

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A lesson on how to blow one billion dollars

Remember when Europeans really liked America? Yeah, me neither. It's been awhile.

USA Today just ran a story citing several recent studies showing how the reputation of the United States continues to take a nose dive in Europe. In fact, many European countries rank the US as a greater threat to international security than Iran. More than Iran? That must be France talking, right? Wrong. Try England. Germany and Italy ranked us second, one behind Iran. Gee, thanks.

It does illustrate one very important point about communications. If you don't walk the walk, all the talk in the world can't save you from the truth. The US is currently spending over one billion dollars on an advertising campaign to help shore up our image overseas. Wasted money if you ask me.


  • Unfortunately, America's problem is deep routed in political decisions made in the past several years. In an effort to combat terrorism, we have killed many innocent civilians and interfered in other countries' domestic affairs. That money spent on implementing democracy in foreign soil could have funded our health care, education and many other well-deserved programs. It’s highly doubtful that an advertising campaign can help us eradicate the negative sentiments the international community has about us. If anything, it might push them to resent us because that effort might appear as phony.

    By Anonymous Chris F., at Tuesday, June 20, 2006 9:49:00 PM  

  • I think you are missing one crucial point -- we need to conduct some sort of outreach. We don't want another terrorist attack, do we?

    By Anonymous T.L.S., at Wednesday, June 21, 2006 6:25:00 AM  

  • TLS - you're right. I guess I wasn't clear in my thought. I absolutely believe we need some form of outreach, I just feel advertising isn't the way to do it.

    By Blogger Rob Amberg, at Wednesday, June 21, 2006 6:40:00 AM  

  • As a communications professional, what kinds of outreach do you suggest?

    By Anonymous t.l.s., at Wednesday, June 21, 2006 7:33:00 AM  

  • Well, for one thing I wouldn't start with propaganda. Advertising has one of the lowest trust levels of any form of communication. It can certainly be entertaining and reinforce an already established perception, but it can't facilitate change. You have to establish that perception before you try to reinforce it with advertising. I would start by spending time cultivating better relationships with our foreign tourists. These people are the ones who carry the messages and perceptions of our country back to theirs. They go home and tell their friends about their experience. Those friends are much more likely to believe each other than a TV ad with George Bush saying we're not trying to dominate the world.

    By making an effort to respect and show interest in foreigners traveling to our country, we project that image overseas by way of word of mouth. Simple efforts could be made to make it more accomodating for non-English speaking travelers to get around in the US. We take it for granted when we travel overseas that everyone will speak English. I was in Germany recently and stopped at a McDonald's along a rural stretch of Autobahn between Frankfurt and Berlin. They didn't speak English (mind you, the only place I encountered in all of Germany that didn't accomodate English) and after having to resort to pointing at a picture, I felt like a pretty big idiot not knowing how to say "cheeseburger" in German.

    By Blogger Rob Amberg, at Wednesday, June 21, 2006 8:01:00 AM  

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