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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks in a Teleconference With the National Advertising Conference of the American Advertising Federation in Nashville, Tennessee


The President. Thank you. My heavens, what a welcome. I can see you all -- the backs of your heads here. Ooops, I can see you turning around. [Laughter]

Thank you all very much. What a marvelous technology. Howard Bell, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to join you today on a medium you understand so well and to address this, the 23d annual National Advertising Conference of the Federation -- of the American Advertising Federation.

Normally in these speeches, you say ``I wish I were with you.'' I will say I wish I were there in Opryland. I'm a country fan, and this week we had Barbara Mandrell up at Camp David. We've had Mo Bandy up there, Jimmy Dean, the Gatlins, Lee Greenwood, and just last week we were privileged to have Alabama singing for our congressional barbecue. So, I'm a fan of country music. And I just wish I were there to not only hear your proceedings, but to catch a little of that act later on.

But I was thinking this morning that there's one advantage to addressing an audience from the advertising industry. If my remarks cause a headache or upset stomach, you'll know how to get fast, fast relief -- click it.

But look, this is reasonably short -- reasonably short because in a few minutes I'm going over to Seaford, Delaware, to a GED graduation -- these night school guys, old and young. And it's exciting what's happening in education.

But back to the subject at hand. We tend to forget in this age of instant communication that your profession has informed Americans for more than two centuries -- two centuries. You probably know that Thomas Jefferson once noted that advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper. You agreed with Thomas, hey? I'm not sure I don't agree with Thomas. As a matter of fact, I think I do.

Today, you transport facts and proclamations, pleas and arguments to every corner of America. And the federation's more than 52,000 members -- advertisers, advertising agencies, media companies, advertising professionals, and college students majoring in advertising -- you all study and refine the arts of informing and persuading the public. Together you've done more than take aim at the bottom line. You've shown that any definition of a successful life must include serving others.

And I believe so very strongly in the historic concept of one American helping another. We call it, as I'm sure you know, a Thousand Points of Light. You have enhanced the Points of Light Foundation, donating millions and millions of dollars a year in multimedia public service announcements. Your chapters and members have served communities nationwide.

Atlanta's Advertising Club established a minority relations program. Houston's Advertising Federation reached out to those afflicted by the terrifying disease AIDS. And in Arkansas, advertisers poured their time and talent into a campaign that combats child abuse. And way out in Honolulu, you promoted the lifesaving cause of organ donation. You've taken on projects as vast and various as our great land, helping people in more than 220 communities and 200 college campuses. No one should underestimate the power of your deeds or the importance of your profession.

You know, there's an old story of how an ad salesman was trying to convince a store owner to do some advertising. And the owner said, ``Look, I've been in this location for 50 years, and I've never needed to advertise.'' And the salesman said, ``The town church has been in the same location for 100 years, but they still ring their bells.''

Two years ago this month, our administration recognized the AAF with the Private Sector Initiative Commendation. Last year, another Presidential award testified to your belief that, as Emerson said, ``The only gift is a portion of thyself.''

Today, let me close by praising a man who has given much of himself and much to our nation. Howard Bell makes his final appearance as AAF president at this convention. And he has served as an advertising evangelist and trailblazer. And he's built the AAF into the megaphone of the ad industry. Under his leadership, membership tripled, AAF established new means and standards of self-regulation. And perhaps most important of all, the federation under Howard's leadership acted upon the axiom that prosperity without purpose means nothing.

And for that, I thank him and commend him. And I thank you. You've made a big difference in this nation's life. But let's go further still. Let's build a better and more focused future for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our great country.

And now, Howard, since I've traveled so far to be with you, I'm glad to take a few questions, but that's the end of the formal part -- end of the speech.

Thank you.

Mr. Bell. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. President. And we appreciate your willingness to answer a couple of questions. And the first question, sir, is: As you know, the economic downturn has affected all areas of business and particularly the communications and the media industries. Do you see, Mr. President, any positive signs in the economy that signal the beginning of an upturn?

The President. Well, Howard, if I can borrow a term from Wall Street, I am bullish on the economy. Not overly optimistic, not Pollyannic about it. But while some sectors are still sluggish, on the whole a turn- around in the economy appears to be in the making. I don't want to be in the prediction business. What a President says on this can adversely affect markets and all of that. But according to the just-released May unemployment report, over half of all industries added to their payrolls. Industrial production has also been rising. And such upward trends will continue, according to the Index of Leading Indicators.

The index has risen for 3 consecutive months, a strong signal that the economic future looks bright. Now, I don't want to sound, as I say, euphoric because, frankly, some people are still hurting in this country and they're hurting badly. And this worries me; this concerns me. But things are beginning to move forward. And as far as your industry is concerned, I'm optimistic that it, too, will pick up as the rest of the economy gathers steam. Increased factory orders will have an impact on the advertising industry as businesses begin to move their products.

So, I think there's reason to be optimistic. This recession has lasted perhaps longer than we would have thought. It hasn't been as deep as many have predicted. Let's see where we go. I think things are looking much more promising as I speak to you here.

Q. Well, thank you. Mr. President, I'd like now to introduce David Bell, the president of Bozell and AAF's national chairman, who will ask the next question.

Q. Mr. President, the American Advertising Federation is currently working with the private sector division of the United States Information Agency to develop advertising and marketing data with respect to the free market economic system that will be made available to embassies around the world. Now, these data and expertise will provide access to proven methodologies to the Eastern European countries, among others, as they move toward a market economy. Do you see additional ways that the advertising industry can help foster these important developments in such countries?

The President. Well, what is it about the Bell name that is just dominating that convention? But anyway, I know no nepotism is involved -- I've been told that. Look, it's a good question. Let me say that I was just over at USIA last week at the swearing-in of Henry Catto, our new Director, former Ambassador. I know that Henry is very excited about AAF's volunteer work with the Private Sector Market Resource Committee.

The important skills that our Eastern European friends acquire through your generosity will help provide the building blocks to establish a productive economy. David, I think the advertising community can show these nations how to transform -- transmit, I should say, information swiftly and creatively. With the many public service announcements your industry produces, you help teach people about these important issues. In fact, as I recall, you helped create and produce the production of the Department of Energy's ``Do Your Part, Drive Smart'' energy efficiency campaign. Now, that campaign showed us all how a few simple steps would help us become more energy efficient.

And also, let me speak about a personal friend here. Look at the wondrous success of Jim Burke and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. What a fantastic job Jim and the others -- many of them with you today there -- are doing. The advertising they've produced has helped stem the tide of illegal use of drugs by powerfully illustrating the often-fatal consequences of drug use. The ads are superb.

And every country has problems that can be addressed with effective public affairs advertising. And as countries begin to realize that they need help to communicate information, they'll do it with advertising.

So, a good question and a good way to end this teleconference. Thank you. Thank you all for what you're doing. Thank you for having me in Nashville, and God bless you all. Thank you so much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. in Room 459 of the Old Executive Office Building via a two-way video and audio hookup with the meeting in Nashville. In his remarks, he referred to Howard H. Bell and David A. Bell, president and chairman of the federation; Henry Catto, Director of the U.S. Information Agency and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom; and James E. Burke, chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

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