Thursday, February 10, 2011

CIA 21st Century Re-Brand Avoids Controversy, Uses No Black Helicopters.

To see an article about “rebranding” the Central Intelligence Agency – right out there in front of God and everybody – I admit it’s a shocker. America’s first formal civilian secret intelligence service is now otherwise. The CIA has a Facebook page. The CIA has a YouTube channel.

It’s discussed in yesterday’s article by Sheila Shayon who wrote, “…the CIA is keeping up with the times, and presenting a new image to the public with a digital facelift – a prerequisite for any brand presence in the 21st century…”

Discussed but not revealed: the CIA itself exposed its new brand initiatives in a press release.

I could show you examples of the CIA’s videos; or the recruitment ad campaign that the agency’s has been running for the past couple of years. (They’re creatively pedestrian but hey, it’s a clandestine government organization.)

It is hardly a Wikileaks coup, though: you can see all of these for yourself on the agency website’s “View Our Advertising” page. Families welcomed; kids, have a great time with your very own US intelligence apparat…hosted by a friendly black Labrador named Bradley.

The dissonance of the thing is galling, though these community-embracing efforts aren’t actually so new. One would like a bit more of an edge, though, for a government outfit that’s routinely accused of black helicopters and blacker operations.

That’s why I was thrilled to find a 1998 article written by a former CIA officer who declares, “…the Agency is just no good at what it's supposed to be doing.” This is 13 years ago, mind you...ancient history as far as Facebook initiates are concerned. Yet it makes interesting reading and it has finely pointed illustrations by Ross MacDonald (see one above). He’s one of America’s great illustrators, as well as a writer of children’s books and a maker of movie props.

Signalwriter is as much public entertainment as brand insight. This post gives you the critical data you need to [a] review MacDonald’s 1998 illustrations which the CIA ought to have used in its rebranding effort; [b] read Atlantic Monthly’s “ancient history” article as a go-around-come-around piece.

And [c] examine the CIA’s brand activities with a view toward picking up some pointers for your own practice.

NOTE: Illustration by Ross MacDonald, copyright © 1998 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved. The Atlantic Monthly, February 1998. “Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?” Volume 281, N. 2, pages 45-61.

1 comment:

Joel Sabel said...

I think Bradley, the friendly black Labrador, is really an operative and technical rep for the black helicopters which were subbed out to a contractor.