OPINION: Stuart Elliott in America

Bill Clinton has been in the news lately almost as much as he was

when he was the president of the United States.



But there's one big difference between now and then, a difference that

has Madison Avenue intrigued. He's no longer president.



Clinton's departure from the White House means that he is now free to

sell his services for commercial purposes, unencumbered by restrictions

that limit the paid outside work of federal officials. Already, Clinton

has been making speeches at a reported fee of $100,000 each - not

too shabby, considering that the presidential salary is $200,000

a year.



While the lecture circuit is probably going to account for most of

Clinton's post-presidential income, there is now the tantalising

possibility of advertising work. Once considered beyond the pale for

American politicians after they left office, appearances on behalf of

marketers have become accepted career moves.



The list of pitching politicos includes one candidate for president, Bob

Dole; one former vice-president, Dan Quayle; two candidates for

vice-president, William E Miller and Geraldine Ferraro; one former

speaker of the House of Representatives, Thomas P O'Neill; two former

governors, Mario Cuomo and Ann Richards; and one former mayor of New

York, Ed Koch. The products involved include everything from Viagra to

Pepsi-Cola.



Intriguingly, Richards became a former governor when she ran for

re-election in 1994 and lost to a fellow named George W Bush. Bush's

parents, a former president and first lady, appeared in a TV spot, but

it wasn't deemed a commercial enterprise per se because they were

touting the Texas Rangers when their son was a part owner of that

baseball team. And Barbara Bush was not the first ex-first lady to

appear in an ad. Eleanor Roosevelt once starred in a commercial for Good

Luck margarine. David Ogilvy himself convinced her to do it by making a

donation to charity in her name.



Speculation that Clinton would join the ranks of pols turned peddlers

began just days after his successor was sworn in. It centred on a

supposed $2 million offer to appear in an ad for Hotjobs.com, a

job search website, that was to be shown on Super Bowl XXXV. An

alternative version of the rumour soon followed, floating the same

figure but with Italian TV as the venue and another, unidentified

sponsor.



Neither of those came to pass, but that hasn't diminished the enthusiasm

for the what-if game. An item in a weekly advertising, marketing and

media newsletter mentioned some products he could endorse such as

sneakers (Clinton's a jogger) and some brands including American Express

(which has a history of using high-profile personalities) and Apple

Computers (the campaign theme, 'Think different', fits 'his

personality').



The furore over Clinton's pardon of the fugitive financier Marc Rich,

which has dampened interest in him as a speaker among Wall Street

brokerage companies, is unlikely to harm his nascent ad career. After

all, if advertisers can hire Dole, whom 47 million voters rejected in

1996 in favour of Clinton, and Quayle, a lightning rod for controversy,

why not earmark some billings for Bill?



Besides, imagine the audience tuning in if, say, Ogilvy & Mather

persuades Clinton to make an American Express Card commercial that

begins with him reprising the campaign's famous first line: 'Do you know

me?'



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