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Marketing bonanza goes untapped

Every once in a while _ no doubt when a just and compassionate God is momentarily distracted by something else _ a news event occurs that is of enormous benefit to people who work in the marketing industry. The news event creates unexpected free publicity for their clients, sometimes millions of dollars' worth.

It happened, for example, when Ronald Reagan casually acknowledged a fondness for jelly beans; also, when medical researchers discovered that red wine helps prevent heart disease; and when cameras caught a jar of Tang on its way to the moon.

Well, it happened once again, recently, in dramatic fashion. As you know, I have in the past unfairly poked fun at marketing people, merely because so many of them are opportunistic, lying hacks. So I thought for a change I would make amends today by helping them publicly celebrate their great good fortune.

That's why I am talking to Steve Peckham, marketing spokesman for S.C. Johnson & Son, which makes Raid bug spray.

Me: As you know, a can of Raid was one of the many fine products found in Saddam Hussein's hideout. I was wondering if you guys are planning a marketing campaign around that. You know, maybe, "Raid: The REAL Weapon of Mass Destruction!" Or, "Whether you are vermin, or are just plagued by them. . . ."

Steve: We cannot confirm it was our product.

Me: I beg your pardon?

Steve: We are unable to confirm it was our product, so we don't want to discuss the situation.

Me: I'm looking at a photograph of the products, as they were found in Saddam's rat hole.

Steve: Without having the can in hand, we cannot confirm it was ours. We're not going to talk about the situation.

Me: But . . .

Steve: I'm trying to get ready for a big, huge meeting here.

Steve seemed strangely surly for a guy who was the beneficiary of such good luck. Next, I tried Allison Klimerman, marketing spokeswoman for Palmolive Naturals soap, a bar of which was also found with Saddam.

Me: Congratulations!

Allison: We have no comment on this.

Me: Look, I came up with a good slogan. I'll give it to you for free. "Thanks to Palmolive, At Least He's Not a DIRTY Rotten Bastard!"

Allison: We are not going to participate in this.

Me: Okay, how do you spell your name? With two L's or one?

Allison: I don't want to be quoted. I have no comment.

Me: On how you spell your name?

This was getting very strange indeed. Next, I tried Marlene Machut, spokeswoman for Mars Inc.

Me: There was a Mars bar with Saddam. Do you think Mars can use that to its advantage?

Marlene: We really think the focus of attention should be on the Iraqi people, how pleased we are for them, and congratulating American troops.

Me: Very good.

Marlene: Thank you.

Me: Been working on that for a while, have we?

Marlene: You're not the first call.

Me: Try this. That picture of Saddam with his mouth open wide, above the slogan: "You Can Eat Mars Bars and Still Get a Good Dental Checkup!"

Marlene: Ha-ha. No.

And last, I reached Nancy Goldfarb, with Lipton Tea.

Me: So, are you pleased that Lipton is the tea of choice of Saddam Hussein? Have you figured out a way to leverage that into a marketing strategy? Maybe, "Time for a Des-pot of Tea"?

Nancy: I don't believe our plans are changing at all.

Me: So, basically, do you think it is possible to be a satanic genocidal maniac and still enjoy Lipton tea?

Nancy: I am not going to answer that. Do you have any marketing questions about our product?

Me: Yes.

Nancy: Okay.

Me: Do you know if Lipton is also the tea of choice of Osama bin Laden?

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingartenwashpost.com.

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