Enduring “America”: Making the Preponderant Universal?
Prof. Scott Lucas
In October 2001 Charlotte Beers, formerly the head of the Madison Avenue advertising firms Oglivy and Mather and J. Walter Thompson, joined the George W. Bush Administration as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. Beers, who had helped give the world the American Express (“don’t leave home without it”) and Head and Shoulders shampoo (“helps bring you closer”) was now going to give a post-9/11 global audience “America”: “This is definitely the most elegant brand I–I’ve ever had to work with, and I have a lot of facets of the brand. First it’s President Bush and Secretary Powell embodying the brand. That’s a pretty inspiring place to start.”
Beers’ blunt, optimistic assertion opens up many possibilities regarding the conjunction between ideological projection, the language of free-market economics, and the American political culture. For the moment, however, I’d like to turn from her selling of America to President Bush’s selling of freedom.