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Agency CEOs Reveal Racial Angst in "Rebrand America" Efforts; Does the Flag Need Changing?

A design competition staged by Paper magazine reveals that the inner psyches of America's ad agency CEOs are anxious, guilty places obsessed with race. George Lois, Alex Bogusky, Dan Wieden, Kevin Roberts and Andy Spade were among the dozen or so creative types who took up Paper's challenge: How would you rebrand America? (Click on images to enlarge.) The most disturbing response came from Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Roberts, whose ad shows a crouched Lady Liberty, legs apart, blood on the floor, and a fetal, naked Barack Obama on the ground in front of her. Issues!

Roberts' work -- like many of his colleagues -- shows a strange ambivalence about America, as if it's not quite good enough for him (he's from New Zealand). Another of his ads replaces the eagle on the dollar bill with a dove. A third just states, "No More US & Them," a slogan which would doubtless infuriate anyone west of the Hudson River. Here's Roberts' explanation:

"My dream is for all Americans to reach out to the world and inspire everyone they touch to come together and rebuild a new world of optimism, joy and shared responsibility. Actions speak louder than ads."
Wieden of Wieden & Kennedy and Bogusky of Crispin Porter + Bogusky both submitted work riven with racial issues. The Wieden team produced three cans of red, white and blue pain, labelled "Courage," "Purity," and "Freedom." But the "Purity" can is white. That's a controversy that Al Sharpton could drive a Mack Truck through. Strategy, Dan, strategy!

A Bogusky ad shows the wall separating the U.S. and Mexico, with a sign on it that reads: "Pardon our dust; a newer more tolerant USA coming soon!" But the wall isn't actually being torn down. So why show it, as opposed to a generic (re)construction site, which would have touched on America's penchant for building new things?

And Lois, an ad legend formerly of DDB and Papert Koenig Lois, puts in a strangely weak effort. It shows Obama dressed as Uncle Sam, along with the type: "the Rebranding of America: from arrogant and nasty ... ... to open and inspirational." If you have to explain the rebranding in the rebranding, George, then it's not really working.

The best two both came from Bogusky. One features a hand shaking a map of the States with the slogan, "Nice to meet you again." Another shows Obama wearing a Che T-shirt that shows Che wearing an Obama T-shirt. (Clever, but lacks appeal in the flyover states. Run in Williamsburg, N.Y., only.)

Check out the rest of them here. And note how many seem dependent on the idea that the American flag needs changing ...

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