Susan Hayes also worked in the past for Ogilvy & Mather, one of the family of Ogilvy PR firms, which are owned by WPP Group Plc, the world’s biggest PR conglomerate. Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide is the firm under contract to California’s health-insurance exchange. But Ogilvy PR is no slouch in the federal-contracts department either, having bagged contracts in 2009 with HHS, FEMA, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Federal stimulus money was used to contract Ogilvy for a $17.5-million campaign to create a “publicity center” for HHS “products,” one of several contracts amounting to over $33 million. Ogilvy’s close engagement with federal propaganda campaigns is the result of its embeddedness in Washington, DC; politicians and staffers from both parties cycle through its companies. But Ogilvy also benefits from the multifarious enterprises of its parent corporation, WPP, among which it may be easier to find firms that donot have Obama campaign/administration graduates, than to find those that do.
WPP bought outright, for example, the take-no-prisoners firm Blue State Digital, which coordinated online fundraising and social-networking campaigns for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Blue State Digital was founded in 2004 by former Howard Dean staffers; in October this year, Doug Powers (directorblue) tracked down Blue State Digital’s connection to the Obama fundraising website, at which it was infamously simple to fake one’s donor information.
Nick Judd at TechPresident described Blue State Digital’s contribution to the Obama campaign of 2012 in these terms:
[V]endors included Blue State Digital and NGP VAN … these companies were in essence extensions of the Democratic Party — NGP VAN thanks to a longstanding arrangement with the national committee and Blue State because its leadership is packed with veterans of the Howard Dean campaign and Obama’s 2008 election effort.
And veterans there were (and are). What few outside the industry were aware of this fall was that Blue State Digital was owned by WPP, which bought it for an undisclosed amount in December 2010. Key founders stayed with the company through the buy-out, but others – Mark Skidmore, Andrew Bleeker, and Michael Organ, all one-time Obama workers – left BSD to found another firm, Bully Pulpit Interactive. Bleeker left Bully Pulpit within weeks, however, signing on with another WPP property, PR firm Hill & Knowlton Strategies.
Hill & Knowlton Strategies was a likely place for Bleeker to go, with its CEO Jack Martin being a big Obama and Democratic donor. CampaignMoney.com shows that Martin gave $17,900 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012, and a total of $22,450 to other 2012 Democratic candidates. Martin gave tens of thousands to the 2010 race as well, supporting such candidates as Harry Reid, Debbie Stabenow, Mark Warner, and Byron Dorgan.
In 2011, WPP also bought the Glover Park Group, a fast-growing lobbying firm set up by former Clinton staffers and peopled today by former Obama staffers as well (see here also). The Glover Park Group became notorious earlier this year for having brokered access to Obama administration officials for the filmmakers of Zero Dark Thirty – a link-up that resulted in the disclosure of the name of a Navy SEAL from SEAL Team Six.
A brief resurgence of notoriety for the Glover Park Group centered this month on Paula Broadwell’s decision to hire the firm to deal with her own PR crisis. But the big flick on WPP’s acquisition of PR and lobbying firms has a more important moral to it. The ad industry naturally sees Obamacare as a huge windfall – and for good reason. The federal government is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Obamacare-related PR, and it can only want to spend more in the future. As Obamacare’s provisions set in, the old, accustomed patterns of health care delivery will change. People will need information – and because many of the changes will be unpleasant and even harmful, people will need encouragement, persuasion, urging – and, if necessary, simple deception.
Synergy in advertisers’, government’s view of “changing our behavior”
Along these lines, Liberty News Network sought to determine how Ogilvy would handle the PR promotion of “comparative effectiveness” data on medical procedures, one of the key tasks for its contract with HHS to set up the Obamacare “publicity center.” The writers looked through Ogilvy’s philosophy on marketing and PR, and highlighted this passage:
…We believe in behavior change for a better world and the power of businesses to foster movements to drive individual, societal and business benefits. Companies that facilitate such behavior change more deeply engage consumers by supporting them in actions like managing their healthcare, developing better nutrition habits, and protecting their homes and assets. …
About the Author: J.E. Dyer is a retired US Naval intelligence officer who served around the world, afloat and ashore, from 1983 to 2004.
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