Huddled masses of US givers wooed by Miss Liberty ads

It could be called the ``greening'' of the Statue of Liberty. A carefully orchestrated marketing drive is raising funds to restore the statue under the slogan ``Keep the Torch Lit.'' The statue can be seen endorsing American Airlines, Avon cosmetics, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Nestl'e foods, and Kodak cameras.

Casting the Statue of Liberty as a pitch lady may seem of questionable taste, but it's for a good cause, advertising supporters say.

It's part of the $230 million fund-raising drive undertaken by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Inc. to save the statue and preserve Ellis Island, the debarkation point for generations of American immigrants.

The foundation, under the chairmanship of Lee A. Iacocca, is planning a 100th birthday gala for the statue next Fourth of July.

To raise the needed millions, the foundation launched a three-pronged attack. Advertising is the central ingredient.

First, major sponsors were promised exclusive rights to call themselves ``official sponsors'' in their advertising in exchange for pledges of anywhere from $3 million to $10 million. Eastman Kodak, for example, doesn't have to worry about any other cameramaker using the official Statue of Liberty logo in its advertising.

An exception is American Express, which jumped the gun and launched an unsanctioned advertising drive of its own in the fall of 1983 at an estimated cost of $4 million. It featured TV spots with offers to contribute a penny for each use of one of its cards to the Statue of Liberty renovation.

It's not clear how much the foundation's drive benefited, but American Express, which had predicted an 18 percent increase in card usage, is reported to have gained 28 percent.

Donations were also sought from individuals who wished to contribute at the grass-roots level. Although many people now know of the Statue of Liberty anniversary celebration next year, that was not always the case, according to Edward W. Dooley, director of marketing at the foundation.

Early in 1983, this former Citibank marketing chief turned to colleagues at the Ad Council, which coordinates public-service campaigns (including the Peace Corps, United Negro College Fund, Drunk Driving Prevention, and Smokey the Bear).

The Ad Council designated Kenyon & Eckhardt Inc. as the volunteer agency to assist the foundation in its fund-raising efforts.

K&E went to work to create the print ads, radio, and TV spots alerting people to the statue's distress and urging them to help keep the torch lit.

Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz was enlisted, and he supplied Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the rest of the gang from ``Peanuts'' for 30- and 60-second spots.

The Ad Council distributed spots to 1,300 television and cable stations and 7,000 radio spots to radio stations.

``We estimate we received over $27 million worth of advertising in 1984 alone, with our only outlay the modest production and distribution charges,'' Mr. Dooley says. Commercials featuring Gregory Peck as the on-camera spokesman are now being distributed to wind up this year's effort.

Ronald Reagan himself has filmed a television segment to be aired the first of next year to launch the final phase of the campaign.

``How often do you get to do a project that involves the President and the whole country?'' muses Ron DeLuca, K&E's executive vice-chairman. ``The results from this campaign are very tangible and the feedback most rewarding.''

Finally, the foundation has licensed merchandisers to advertise and sell fragments, collectibles, and souvenirs through its official licensing agent, Hamilton Projects Inc.

This part of the program is now accounting for nearly $2 out of every $10 raised. Consumers can now purchase everything from paper cups to $600 Tiffany watches with the imprint of the Statue of Liberty.

A&P is using the statue's logo in fliers and ads to declare its chain of store headquarters for licensed merchandise -- which has ruffled the feathers of Grand Union, also a major sponsor.

Some critics question if all of this is in good taste. Michael Stone, Hamilton's president, contends that ``without all this fund-raising effort, the Statue of Liberty would crumble away and fall into the sea. The government well has run dry and more and more nonprofit organizations are looking to this kind of commercial exploitation to raise the money they can't get from other sources.''

Restoration work is nearing completion, and less than $50 million is left to be raised.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.