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Charlotte Beers steps down from State Department role

WASHINGTON - Charlotte Beers, the veteran Madison Avenue advertising executive, is to step down from her role in the US State Department.

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Officially, Beers is resigning for reasons of ill health. However, speculation has about her departure has been widespread in recent weeks.

Beers, who spent most of her career working at Ogilvy & Mather, took the job of under-secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs in George W Bush's administration almost two years ago.

The post made Beers the de facto international PR representative for the US and gave her jurisdiction over international communications and diplomacy.

Beers has been at the sharp end of America's campaign to boost its image abroad in the wake of 9/11. She has taken flak for her "Shared Values" campaign, which sought to improve the image of the US in Muslim states.

Last month, the State Department said it was scrapping a series of TV ads designed to reverse anti-American sentiment in Muslim countries last week in favour of more traditional diplomatic PR efforts.

The ads, which first aired in October, featured Muslim Americans claiming US acceptance of their religion and lifestyle. However, several Muslim states including Saudi Arabia refused to run them. The approach was criticised by some as being too simplistic.

It will come as no surprise to some that Beers is going now. As while she refused at the time to comment on the demise of the $15m (£9.5m) project, some saw the campaign's axe as signalling that Beer's fate was sealed.

Wes Pedersen, Public Affairs Council director and a US diplomacy veteran, told PR Week US recently: "The State Department has long pushed the PR-beats-ads line. I'd be surprised if her resignation wasn't on Colin Powell's desk."

Beers is one of the most senior women to ever work in the advertising industry. She was the first woman ever to chair the American Association of Advertising and was the CEO of a troubled Ogilvy & Mather in 1992. She left the industry in 1996, but was tempted back by WPP Group chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell in 1996 to head up Ogilvy sister shop J Walter Thompson.

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