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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Berne Native Heads Effort to Curb the "Ugly American"

Keith Reinhard, a Berne (IN) native, is heading an effort to improve the way Americans are perceived in foreign nations. Mr. Reinhard is head of "Business for Diplomatic Action."

The Wall Street Journal's Scott McCartney wrote last week:

Mr. Reinhard, a prominent advertising executive who created slogans like "You deserve a break today" and "Two all-beef patties..." said he started looking for ways to polish the image of the U.S. when he heard President Bush express dismay shortly after Sept. 11 that "people did not like us" in other parts of the world.

Believing this was potentially a major business issue for U.S. firms selling goods and services abroad, he launched a research effort inside his advertising agency, a unit of Omnicom Group. A polling firm sent questionnaires to people in 130 countries asking how America was viewed and what Americans could do to make a better impression overseas, and task forces from Omnicom studied results and interviewed business executives around the world.

Last year, the group distributed guides to college students traveling abroad. This year, the effort has moved to the business traveler.

Reinhard, chairman emeritus of the advertising giant DDB Worldwide, Inc. , writes:

Anti-Americanism is a growing trend that, unless checked, is certain to have wide-ranging and long-term negative effects on U.S. business endeavors, to say nothing of the damage to our reputation as a people, our future economic competitiveness, and the threat to our national security. While it is true that much resentment of our country currently centers on our foreign policy, much does not. Other root causes include the perception that we are arrogant and insensitive as a people, that our culture has become all-pervasive, and that the global business expansion on the part of U.S. companies has been exploitive.

At Business for Diplomatic Action, we are committed to the task of mobilizing U.S. corporations to undertake a variety of coordinated public diplomacy actions that will begin to restore America's declining reputation.

Reinhard was raised as a Mennonite. Reinhard spoke to a Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) conference in 1999:
Advertising magnate Keith Reinhard recalled his Mennonite roots in small-town Berne, Indiana, where he learned lessons that influence his work at the helm of the largest advertising agency in the U.S. He regaled his audience with witty stories and visual examples from the world of marketing, including his own creation of two McDonald's hamburger legends -- "You deserve a break today," and "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun."

Crossing the border from the Mennonite church to Madison Avenue was not hard, said Reinhard.

"I never questioned whether advertising was a suitable calling," he said. "Advertising is about selling, and selling is good. Nothing much happens in the world if nothing is sold."

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