Why Is Joe Biden Hiring a Madison Avenue Advertising Firm?

Posted: Feb 17, 2021 12:23 PM
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Why Is Joe Biden Hiring a Madison Avenue Advertising Firm?

Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

It was a brief entry in a Politico newsletter that was easily overlooked. In truth, it had been initially. When going back to read through Politico-Influence from the weekend for some research I drifted over an innocuous one paragraph announcement for a firm, detailing how they are opening a new division. The company, BCW, declared it was launching a public sector unit -- meaning, curiously, they were devoting a sector of the corporation to government work.

"'As the new administration ramps up, many agencies will need to develop and launch compelling strategic communications campaigns to disseminate President Biden’s priorities, policies and objectives to the American public,' said Dan Doherty, BCW’s executive vice president for North America public affairs and head of its crisis practice, in a statement. The new unit is already under contract with a handful of federal agencies including the VA, Commerce Department, Pentagon and HHS."

The firm is Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a massively-sized advertising agency and PR firm. This raises a significant amount of questions, beginning with why on earth does a new administration need to have an advertising conglomerate under contract to create campaigns to sell policy ideas to the country? This is a beyond curious reality, one in which it appears we are paying taxpayer money to a Madison Avenue multinational in order to tell taxpayers how great everything is, or will be, under Joe Biden.

For starters why does the administration need outside help in the arena of public outreach? There is a WH Press Office for just such matters, as well as The Office Of Public Engagement, the stated goal of which is specifically designed to get his policies and objectives to the public: "Through outreach, communication, public events, and official announcements from the administration and the various departments of the Executive Office of the President, the Office of Public Engagement removes obstacles and barriers and creates opportunities to improve public awareness and involvement in the work of the Biden-Harris administration."

So why the need to hire BCW? Same goes for those listed government agencies; they all have their own PR offices and public outreach divisions. If our government is going to turn over work to private sector firms then can they at least close up shop on their offices which are tasked with these very duties? 

What pulls the attention is the phrase describing the executive from BCW as being "head of its crisis practice." This is a specialty sector of the company, one developed to help with entities facing a severe public perception crisis. Spin management, in other words. BCW has worked in the past with major crisis events with damaged optics such as the Tylenol poisonings in the 1980s, the company behind the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, and even the Blackwater scandal in Baghdad.

So why is the Biden administration focused on a massive PR firm specializing in dealing with public crisis management and prevention of potential reputation risks? This indicates the administration officials are keenly aware they have agenda items lined up which are going to be a tough sell to the public so they are turning to top-flight experts in the field of spin, crisis management, and reputational control methods. Who better to sell some of the tougher aspects of Biden’s pledged policies, such as green energy and aggressive immigration law rollbacks?

The feeling this delivers is not of a man operating with a national mandate, but a behind-the-scenes committee intent on pushing a broad scope of items they realize will cause resistance from the general population. Message control and massaging of facts is something that top-flight agencies are far more skilled at in the marketplace. It should be very concerning that an administration is reaching out to this type of influential agency in these early days of establishment. 

It is also a concern that taxpayer money is going towards this effort, in order to tell us -- the taxpayers -- why we would want more aggressive governmental programs. After all, Biden already has at his disposal the largest PR firm in the country. The mainstream media has been promoting him enthusiastically for at least a solid year already, with no sign of tiring from their task.