The Daily Demarche
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Nancy Powell - What Advertising Works In The Third World
Regular readers know that we ocassionally post a "guest piece" or an exceptional e-mail (always with the author's permission). We do not edit (except for formatting to work with Blogger) or alter content in any way. Publishing these posts and e-mails is not necessarily an endorsement, it just means we found them interestimg and thought you might too. The following is from frequent commenter Peter Rice (Retired from the US Foreign Service), now living in Sarasota, FL . He is writing in response to a piece about former Ambassador to Pakistan Nancy Powell.

From my time in India and my conversations with people running the rewards for turning in terrorists program, a few comments about Nancy Powell:

India with a bit more than 1,000,000,000 people has a daily newspaper circulation of around 10,000,000 newspapers (about half in English), or about 1 newspaper for every 100 people.

The vast majority of Indians never sees nor reads a newspaper. There is typically only one AM radio signal (plus one FM signal in the largest cities), Govt. of India radio (called All India Radio) plus short wave at night, IF the signal can be received. For most of India, there is only one broadcast TV signal, from TV Very Boring (Govt. of India owned). The rich have satellite TV, the other 95% do not. We left India in 1999 and more likely get satellite TV now, but it would be very difficult to get a "turn in a terrorist" advertisement on satellite TV, considering that the majority of the viewers in Asia are likely to be offended by such advertisements.

Yes, there are billboards, but advertisements for turning in terrorists would likely offend some groups and the billboard would likely be taken down within hours. Billboards were the favorite media for advertising Indian movies.

The rest of South Asia is much the same. So advertising on match books/boxes is one of the few effective media. In most of the Third World (and the old Second World, the USSR and Warsaw Bloc) there are no free matches, so smokers (lots of males in the Third World smoke) are happy to take free matches.

In the USA, I remember there being advertisements inside matchbooks. Not advertisements to appeal to gentlemen (or lady) diplomats, rather for high school diploma mills, trade schools, and such.

I was told by people involved in the "turn in a terrorist program" (my name for it, not theirs) that the match box advertisements did produce leads that caused several terrorists to be caught.

Knowing the nature of far too many FSOs, Nancy Powell was offended by the manner of the advertising (on match boxes), offended that such advertising might offend some Pakistanis (it certainly would, anything that helped us would offend some of them), and/or just offended by anyone who was helping to fight "GW Bush's War".

We will not know what was in Powell's head. We do know the nature of the culture of the State Dept. whereby the ambassador is supreme and all powerful, able to openly disobey orders from Washington, DC (unless the orders are really really important to the Secretary of State).

As a test of this, think of how few ambassadors have been fired by the Secretary of State, fired in the sense of being removed from their job and returned to the USA. I know of none other than the fool who was ambassador in Panama City when we invaded, and he said on TV that he was unfit for the job and that everyone knew that he was unfit when he was sent there.

Powell was just a typically ambassador, she chose not to like the match box for rewards program and ordered that it not be done in "her country", Pakistan. And as a female, she will get another job as ambassador, and likely in a nicer post.

Another of the many examples that FSOs can choose to not follow orders, in particular those coming from GW Bush and his appointees, whom many of them despise.

Peter Rice
Retired from the US Foreign Service
Sarasota, FL
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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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