Communicating new ideas to people—such as those professed by libertarians—is no easy task. One man who deals with this problem, as a professional, is advertising man John Zeigler, president of John Zeigler, Inc. Zeigler's agency is the first—and so far the only—ad agency that specializes in cause advertising. It has done ads for birth control, the draft, abortion-law reform, pollution control, drug abuse, refugee relief, conservation, and alimony—and made money doing so, both for itself and for its clients. That in itself would be worthy of note, but beyond that, John Zeigler is a libertarian—an outspoken advocate of individual rights and opponent of government coercion. Zeigler finds it possible to weave his libertarian views into the fabric of his ads for diverse clients, ranging from the National Audubon Society to Friends of the Earth, the National Council of Negro Women, and the YWCA.
Zeigler graduated from the University of Cincinnati in advertising, worked 5½ years for Procter and Gamble as an art director, and then moved into advertising and art direction for various ad agencies in New York. He has held agency jobs as copywriter, creative group supervisor, and television producer, and while at Galbraith, Hoffman, and Rogers, he created the Center for Issue Advertising, a division designed primarily to fight anti-business laws. Five years ago he founded the Workshop for Social Change Through Advertising at the New School for Social Research. In May 1970 he founded John Zeigler, Inc. using his Manhattan apartment as an office. Two days later he had his first client, Sierra Club Books. The client list has now grown to 30.
Zeigler's work has attracted great attention. Stories about him have appeared in many advertising trade publications. His National Children's Forest Campaign for Hunt-Wesson was written up in TIME, and his business success was written up in BUSINESS WEEK. In March of this year Zeigler set the ad industry on its ear in a widely-publicized speech to the Fairfield County Advertising Club. Zeigler, responding to the Federal Trade Commission's harassment of advertising, suggested that the ad industry "hold hearings of its own, to examine the purpose, philosophy, activities, intent, and abuse of power by the FTC, and whether it has any logical basis for existing in a free economic society." Speaking before the National Lawyers' Guild, Zeigler compared the legal profession with vultures, for its complicity in government attacks on advertising.
Significantly, Zeigler has escaped being branded as an extremist, despite his principled, outspoken views. Zeigler is first of all a professional communicator, who understands his audiences and the tools at his disposal. To gain a better understanding of Zeigler's ideas and methods, particularly as applied to libertarian social change, REASON contributing editor Lanny Friedlander, assisted by NYU film student Ronnie Schwartz, interviewed Zeigler earlier this year in his New York office. This is what we learned.
REASON: As president of the country's first cause advertising agency, do you feel that the libertarian movement can benefit in any way from your experience and expertise in mass communications to help spread the word?
ZEIGLER: Well of course I'm biased but I think that advertising is probably the most important vehicle to get our message before the public. This is critical of course because until public attitudes are changed politicians won't move. I suppose the only way that we will get a non-statist society is to eventually hope that politicians will relinquish a lot of power through public pressure.
I conduct a workshop in the New School for Social Research called "Cause Advertising: an Alternative to Powerlessness." Frankly I think that is an appropriate title for the interest groups that we deal with, specifically social interest groups that are dedicated to the defense of individual rights to life, liberty, and property. Libertarians are striving to achieve a state of some control over their own lives and it isn't going to happen through the courts, it isn't going to happen through the voting booth, it isn't going to happen through street demonstrations, and it isn't going to happen through reeducation in an antiquated public school system. So actually it only leaves libertarians one vehicle other than arms or violence, of course, to effect the kinds of changes we all want, and that vehicle is the media—mass communications.
REASON This concept is probably relatively new, or might be relatively new to some of our readers so specifically, how has mass communications aided and abetted causes in the past?
ZEIGLER: Well, first of all we have to break down mass communications: cause advertising, direct mail, public relations, publicity, and fund raising. When I talk about media or mass communications, I'm talking about any tool other than one-to-one confrontations or dialogues between people and that includes advertising on radio, television, newspapers, magazines, or print and electronics media; as well as buttons, placards films, books, literature, leaflets, street theatre. In short any way to use print or electronic devices to make known a point of view. Now specifically to answer your question, historically ads against the war, and going back even further, ads in defense of the civil rights movement in the South in the early 60s were effective in raising funds and helped in changing public attitudes. That was my first exposure to the drama and effectiveness of this type of communications. This was followed by anti-Vietnam War ads by peace groups.
At that point I conceived the idea for my workshop at the New School as an alternative to the Advertising Council. The Advertising Council is made up of media people, advertising people, and industry people working together as a team to provide public service advertising in various media. Now because of their charter limitations and in order to preserve their tax-exempt status, their advertising of necessity must be non-controversial. Well this is unfortunate because since their founding, 4 billion dollars have been given to public service advertising in terms of time, talent, and space, and about $400,000,000 a year is given over to public service advertising for various efforts such as Smokey the Bear, Library Week, Heart Association, etc. I felt that at the time, it was critical that interest groups concerned with matters such as abortion, the draft, war, alimony and divorce, the crime rate, drugs, public employee strikes, etc., ought to have access to a professional group that could provide communications to educate the public—and hopefully, law makers—in order to change irresponsible legislation or initiate new legislation that would protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property.
At that time, Burt Steinhauser at Doyle, Dane, Bernbach created probably the most successful protest—about rat control legislation. The ad read, "Cut this out and put it in bed next to your child,"—and there was a large photo of a rat. Anyway Congress had laughed at this kind of legislation, again not that I am a supporter of it, but they had laughed at this kind of legislation and this had made Burt Steinhauser enraged, feeling that the people in the ghettos needed this kind of protection. The result of the ad was that since it pinpointed how the legislators voted, the effect was to embarrass them in print, in magazines and newspapers. Sargent Shriver circulated the ad around Congress and in effect said, "Hey mac, look—your name is down here, that's the way you voted it, is that how you want it to stand?" Most Congressmen said no and they quickly made an abrupt change and voted for rat control legislation. Subsequently, Johnson, who was president at the time, sent Burt Steinhauser a letter that in effect said, "If it weren't for your ad we never would have effected this legislation." So that's the first example I can think of in a controversial area.
But prior to that, of course, public service advertising had been effective, it had done a fairly good job of educating people about forest fires and cancer care. So those are some earlier case histories; now political advertising is something else. There have been some successful political ads. Tom Collins of Rapp and Collins has won nation-wide fame recently as the direct mail advertising fund-raiser for McGovern, helping him raise $4,000,000 so that McGovern could say to George Meany, "I don't need your help anymore, I've got my own funds." Tom Collins invented what I call the domino effect in cause advertising. Now in this case it happened to be political advertising where he ran an ad for Adlai Stevenson and raised $100,000. He used that $100,000 to run three more ads and those ads pulled in more thousands of dollars and the continued use of advertising had a snowball or domino effect and not only built up campaign funds but built up more funds for advertising. Stevenson was subsequently nominated at that convention.
REASON: Have you ever considered doing specifically political ads, as opposed to cause ads?
ZEIGLER: I have been asked again in the last day or two to be one of the ad writers on the McGovern campaign. Now our agency wouldn't do this, but I might have done it on an assignment basis with another agency if I had decided I could do it. I have to admit at this point, I was really not entirely sure what position to take. I saw a grand opportunity to talk about abortion or the draft or the war in a McGovern ad, if I were permitted to talk about that issue exclusively, solely. But I frankly wouldn't feel good about having helped elect that man (though I wouldn't feel good about helping elect Nixon either). So I decided not to accept their offer—no matter how you slice it, the ads might have helped elect him. As I mentioned, our agency refuses to take on any political candidate at any time considering that these guys are really the enemy.
REASON: But aren't you now providing help for the Libertarian Party?
ZEIGLER: Yes, we've signed on as the Libertarian Party's ad agency, but this is much more in the nature of a cause than a political campaign.
REASON: Then you aren't primarily using the ads to elect candidates?
ZEIGLER: I think they could probably help elect some local candidates, but the prime purpose of using advertising at this point for any libertarian candidate or the Libertarian Party in any part of the country is essentially to educate the public about our philosophy. I think you'll find that most of the candidates and most of the parties will say, "Yes, that is pretty much our intent at this point. We have really no hopes of winning, but we do look forward to this as an opportunity to expand views and to get an alternative voice heard." And I think this is absolutely critical. I think that the public has been brainwashed into thinking for some reason they have two choices when the two choices are pretty damn similar. What they should have is not only a choice between a collectivist and a fascist candidate, but also have a chance to vote for a candidate who offers them freedom from injustices and freedom from any more coercion, especially through taxes.
REASON: What made you decide to violate your rule against doing political ads, even in this sense?
ZEIGLER: Well, basically it's because this is the first time that there has been a political philosophy that I could agree with. And frankly, I think this is very exciting because, although I hate to use the word, it's something of a dream that has been fulfilled. When I started my workshop five years ago, very frankly my question to myself was: how can I use my skills as an advertising man to expose the public to the ideas and beliefs of Ayn Rand?
REASON: At that time were you an Objectivist?
ZEIGLER: At that time I was a student of Objectivism and still am.
REASON: Can you tell us briefly about your own political orientation and how you came to be a libertarian?
ZEIGLER: I was a bleeding-heart liberal up until about the age of 36. At that time I was doing some ghost writing for Dr. Albert Ellis the psychologist, and I originated the now-famous debate between Ellis and Nathaniel Branden. At that lecture Branden made many references to Rand's FOR THE NEW INTELLECTUAL. So I bought a copy of it and was absolutely stunned by it. I became wildly engrossed in the subject, read ATLAS SHRUGGED, and those two paperbacks quite dramatically changed my life.
REASON: So you consider yourself an Objectivist Libertarian?
ZEIGLER: That's difficult for me to answer and frankly it makes me a little uptight. Unlike most libertarians I find it a little difficult to express my precise social-economic-political position. This is to say that it makes me a little defensive because I can't always take a firm stand with other libertarians on my positions, but suffice to say that I am simply anxious to change society to the extent that my individual rights to life, liberty, and property are not violated any more.
REASON: In other words you are more concerned with the necessity for developing the need for mass communications techniques among libertarians than becoming engrossed in the intellectual exercise?
ZEIGLER: Correct. This is not to put down the necessity for all of this exploring and discussing (premises and concepts) about the movement. However, I feel that at this point we have done too much talking to ourselves and now that the time is right, as far as I am concerned, I feel that it's necessary that we start talking to the public and stop talking to ourselves. As Bob Baker has said, "Libertarians are those people who publish little magazines for each other." Now, I may be misquoting him, but that was the sense of what I think he had to say and I think that's true. Here we have the most viable, profound, exciting, dynamic philosophy that man has ever devised and we're simply not doing our homework in terms of examining ways to promote this philosophy to other people.
I'm not saying this has to be done because of any missionary zeal or because "I know better than you, therefore, adapt to my life-style," but simply because I am afraid of that misuse of power (on the part of local, state, and federal politicians, and the UN), has quite a day-by-day and hourly effect on my life, my earning power, and the way my life, health, and property are protected. At this point I feel I'm not getting that protection. So, my motivation, frankly, in wanting to propagate this theory, is self-protection. I want to be able to spend the rest of my years on this planet with as little interference from corps of power forces as possible. I also want my children to be free of injustices.
REASON: Let's move on now to discuss your methods for doing this. Tell us about your own agency. What impacts and what successes have you had on raising funds, changing attitudes and changing laws?
ZEIGLER: I'll cite a few case histories. Example number one would be the advertisement we prepared for a group that I originally invented, called the Other Woman Limited, which was an anti-alimony group. The headline read, "Send us a dollar to help us get your ex-wife a job or a husband." Now, in that ad I was frankly interested in demonstrating one thing: the power of advertising. This is probably one of the most successful protest ads ever designed because for a very small budget—that came out of my pocket—we wound up reaching 82 million people.
REASON: How did you do that?
ZEIGLER: Our budget would not permit us to have the kind of impact and reach that an anti-alimony crusade required. So very simply we decided that the only way we could reach enough people on this issue was through non-advertising vehicles.
REASON: Meaning what?
ZEIGLER: Meaning journalists. Our objective frankly was to provoke the interest of journalists. After we had placed the ad free in three publications we got a mention in COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE and there was a six-page story in CORONET that followed that. The NEW YORK TIMES then interviewed the group, did a half-page story on it—which was then subsequently picked up by most newspapers in the country and many newspapers all over the world. The group appeared on the Today Show, To Tell The Truth, Girl Talk, CBS TV News, many radio shows, all over the country and all over the world. And the last appearance was my own on the David Suskind Show a couple of months ago.
REASON: Did you raise any money?
ZEIGLER: That was a secondary objective and yes, we did. But, as I said, the prime motive here was to demonstrate the power of an ad, and how if professionally written, properly constructed and engagingly presented it could excite the interest of journalists in both the print and electronic media.
REASON: You said you received free space in three publications. How were you able to do this?
ZEIGLER: Well frankly, 90% of all of the advertising placed for all of our clients at John Zeigler, Inc. is placed free.
REASON: In other words most of your clients don't have to pay for their advertising?
ZEIGLER: They have to pay for our creative services, but as a rule we're able to secure free space in publications, much like the Advertising Council is able to secure space.
REASON: In other words, the media are now becoming responsive to controversial questions and issues?
ZEIGLER: As a matter of fact, we now even have publications coming to us saying "John, we're upset about this public issue, can one of your clients prepare an ad and run it in our magazine and we'll provide the space at no charge?"
REASON: The only client investment is a fee for your services?
ZEIGLER: That's right. We do not charge on a commission basis the way most advertising agencies charge.
REASON: Still, isn't it a risk for social interest group clients to invest in paying you for your creative services since they have no product to sell? Isn't this money that they've invested down the drain?
ZEIGLER: It represents very little risk if they pay us $3000 to prepare an ad, it's placed in publications free, and raises $35,000 for them. This represents pretty much of a no-risk investment. I'd like to emphasize that we must make every ad pay its own way in order to keep our clients. We've had pretty good success in achieving that objective.
REASON: Can you give us an example?
ZEIGLER: We were able to raise $35,000 from one Bengali refugee ad placed free in one publication. Our track record has demonstrated that it is possible to make cause advertising pay for itself. Most of our ads contain coupons and therefore, become "direct response" advertising and in that way it is possible for a social interest group client to recoup its original investment in hiring us to prepare its ad. Another example was an ad for the National Audubon Society. We planned to run it once in AUDUBON MAGAZINE to promote an ecological safari. The response was so great—$395,000 worth—that it was unnecessary to run the ad the following year because it had sold out. We did an ad for Sierra Club and the objective there was to bring people into stores at Christmas to thumb through Sierra Club books and buy them as Christmas gifts. That ad more than paid for itself in terms of contributions and in terms of prospective purchasers of future Sierra Club books.
REASON: It sounds as though one of your main functions is to generate mailing lists for your clients.
ZEIGLER: That's quite true. All donors that respond to these ads are a potential market for future contributions. To put it bluntly, an interest group isn't doing their job if they don't go back to those donors four times a year for additional contributions. So the names that come in from every ad become a very powerful mailing list and a very important source of future funds.
REASON: It seems as if what you're saying is that libertarians can avail themselves of a whole new public relations/advertising/fund-raising concept?
ZEIGLER: That's right. Getting back to the anti-alimony campaign for instance, what we also did at that time was to invent the "advertisement/press release." Now that means simply that we decided that the advertisement should function as a press release. As you know reporters very often extract verbatim the material you present in the press release. But, we felt an ad could do that better. One very important article by a highly respected journalist pretty much followed the construction of our ad. I'm not putting down the professionalism of journalists in any way; I'm just saying that I've found that if you want to get results you do people's work for them to the best of your ability and try to make life easy for them.
REASON: What you're saying is that as you prepare an ad you have in mind that it also function as a press release. Is that correct?
ZEIGLER: Right. All of our clients, frankly, are poverty-stricken, and it's imperative that we make every dollar that they invest in us or typography or mechanical charges or reprint charges work extremely hard. It means that if they have only $1000 to invest in their cause through advertising we have to make it work like $100,000.
REASON: You've given a lot of speeches recently that have been apparently well-received by the press, particularly the advertising trade press. Yet, you have not identified yourself as a libertarian; is there a reason for this?
ZEIGLER: If I appear on a radio show I think it's much more effective if the listener says to his friend the following day, "Hey, did you hear what that advertising man had to say about the FTC and advertising," as opposed to, "Hey, did you hear what this guy who calls himself a libertarian advertising man had to say about the FTC and advertising?"
REASON: Then you think introducing the term libertarianism confuses the issue?
ZEIGLER: I think so because libertarianism embraces too many issues. I think that it is important, if I give a speech anywhere, that people relate to the issue I'm talking about, as opposed to my overall philosophy which frankly I think may confuse them. I think all libertarians have to learn the art of "trying to find common ground". By that I mean, I don't think we should come at the public or individuals with an assertion, "I'm a libertarian, here's what I believe, what do you believe?" but more like, "What is our common ground, what are the things we commonly agree are evil or unjust, and what can we do together to eliminate these unjustices?" And frankly that's the position I've taken in my work. I will work with liberal and conservative groups as long as their particular issue is one I agree with, even though I may disagree with the general intent of their overall position. I look on the opportunity to work with them as frankly a good opportunity to educate the public on a specific issue.
REASON: In other words, if a major polluter like U.S. Steel came to you to devise an anti-alimony campaign you'd have no hesitancy in working with them even though they are a major polluter?
ZEIGLER: That's right. I don't pass any moral judgments about my clients. U.S. Steel may be a major polluter, but John Zeigler is a minor polluter. My daughter has constantly called me on this point as I fill up each room with cigar smoke. None of us is perfect, and none of us is above criticism. The point I'm trying to make is that in my area of communications I can have more impact and achieve more results by working with other groups on specific issues even though I disagree with their overall purpose. To point it up, I may disagree with a person's religious views but that doesn't mean that's any kind of a basis for my not hiring him to work in my office.
ZEIGLER: Well as I mentioned before, it's on the basis of the client's commitment to defending individual rights to life, liberty, and property, relative to the specific issue they're talking about. We have turned down specific products that pollute, that violate individual rights, and will continue to do so.
Recently we were asked to take on a client who had, on the whole, a noble objective—the elimination of poverty. One of their goals was to involve the private sector, but they nevertheless felt they had to express the need for federal funds in their advertising for support of their program. On that basis I had to reject them as a client. On the one hand they were asking me to help enlist the aid of the private sector, but they would also support in their ads the concept of taxation (or legalized theft) to extract money from private citizens for their program.
REASON: What we are really talking about is "the selling of a movement." Have you found that publishers and editors have objected to any of the libertarian content in the ads you've created for specific interest groups?
ZEIGLER: Well of course what I'm trying to do is introduce into every ad the theme "If you can violate one man's rights you can violate any man's." But these specific words, of course, do not occur. Specific issues are talked about. Such as the collusion between government and industry to victimize Appalachians and their natural resources. Although my clients in this case were extremely religious and very liberal they were quite receptive to my point that the prime problem in Appalachia today is the collusion of absentee owners, industry and government in the exploitation of this area in an imperialistic manner.
So far it's hard to say whether editors have rejected some of the libertarian content of my ads, because they never tell me why a particular ad was rejected for free space. And that holds true with any press releases we send out regarding any ads that we prepare or regarding any speeches that I may make. We never know why they were rejected. However, I have to profess pleasure at the receptivity to which the points in my ads and the points in my speeches have been received. From time to time I will put feelers out on an individual basis with a publisher or editor or a client about my libertarian viewpoints but never with the purpose of trying to convert him. This would be absurd, masochistic and dangerous to the movement.
REASON: Have you been able to introduce any libertarian principles within the framework of an existing client organization?
ZEIGLER: When they accept and agree to publish any of our ads that contain these principles, naturally they're adopting these principles into their organization. Quite frequently an organization is not ready to hire us simply because we have been able to demonstrate their lack of identity or structure in their own group. We've made suggestions on how they can achieve this intellectual structure and suggestions on particular principles that we think their organization could adopt to make them stronger and more newsworthy to the press, and they've gone along with what we've advised.
REASON: You mentioned before you invented the anti-alimony group. Can you tell us the results of this kind of community organization?
ZEIGLER: Well, probably the primary reward I get from creating some interest groups for the purpose of putting across my view of an issue to the public is the letters I get from people who say "Thank God you exist, thank God somebody is doing something about this problem. Is there anything we can do to help? Can I start a chapter here in Utah?" These kind of replies were extremely touching and frankly made me feel very good. I have done something to give other people hope about an issue, and although published letters to editors are a very critical part of any communications program, for some reason an ad has even more effect on people's feeling of powerlessness, frustration, apathy and futility. When they see an ad appear, they realize that something professional is happening to effect solutions to a given problem and that gives them hope.
To elaborate on this point, a recent research study that your readers are probably not aware of revealed among 20,000 people polled the prime issue before the public today is not crime, it is not drugs, it is not Vietnam, it is not the environment, it is not the economy. The prime issue today is people's anxiety about the political system. Their second concern was, "We don't know how to communicate with each other any more." Communications are a problem. Now, John Zeigler, Inc. can go just so far in helping to do something about that particular problem, i.e., apathy and feelings of futility on the part of people because the judges and politicians are not being responsive to their needs and their concerns. So, what we're doing is starting a non-profit arm to John Zeigler, Inc. called, SPEAK OUT. Speak Out's aim as a non-profit organization is to help people present their views about all public issues, in all media. And through whatever funding possible we will provide the tools to social action groups and special interest organizations, on how to present their views about public issues through the media. The way we do this is through lectures, films, booklets, and literature, that will in effect say, "Here's how you make ads, here's how you fund-raise, get publicity, and free space in all media."
REASON: How will Speak Out help people on specific problems?
ZEIGLER: Well, our first ad in the NEW YORK TIMES will ask people to tell us what issues they're the most angry about, whether it is drugs, crime, abortion, divorce and alimony, and we will have their names on file. Now hopefully we will have the names on file of every person in the country and how they feel about specific issues so that if a libertarian in St. Louis writes us and tells us, "Look I'm angry about dog litter on the street in St. Louis. What can I do about it? Can you give me the names of other people in St. Louis who wrote Speak Out about their anger about dog litter? Tell me who they are so I can organize them on a community or city-wide basis to do something legislatively about this problem." We then in turn will furnish him with the names of people in his area, so that he can proceed to organize them. This will be the first attempt to mobilize people behind public issues rather than politically or ideologically. And for that reason we think it is much more important than any groups such as John Gardner's Common Cause, or Ralph Nader's Public Citizen. I think you can also see the advantage of having these names for quick access by politicians to determine how their constituency or how the nation at large is feeling about specific issues.
REASON: How will Speak Out be funded?
ZEIGLER: Essentially by the public. Again we will use the domino effect in advertising to enlist support for Speak Out. We'll ask people to contribute $15.00 as a member of Speak Out and they'll receive a newsletter periodically telling them specifically how to use the tools of media and advertising to effect social change. Beyond that we hope that foundations will want to support Speak Out and we hope that corporations will want to contribute, but I'm not too optimistic about their involvement.
REASON: Has Speak Out been launched yet?
ZEIGLER: We've just received our incorporation papers but by the time this interview is printed we will have received our tax exemption, which is critical relative to our ability to receive tax-deductible gifts.
REASON: Will Speak Out be of much value to the libertarian movement?
ZEIGLER: Frankly we would like the support of every libertarian in the form of contributions and participation as members. The membership will cost $15.00 a year and if you're so inclined we would be very pleased to receive your membership fee at Speak Out, 55 West 44th Street, New York, New York 10036. Because the material that we're preparing is essentially "how to" material for libertarians (and we'd be pleased to just make these "how to" manuals and films and slides available to libertarian groups exclusively), these aids will be of great value, I think, to the movement. Aside from that it affords libertarians a great opportunity, as I said before, of writing to us and asking "How many people in my community are angry about the issues I am angry about? Can you give me their names and addresses so I can organize them?" It's an opportunity for libertarians to organize other citizens around libertarian issues. We would be pleased to have any volunteer help from the New York area, from people who are interested in our objectives.
REASON: Frankly it's hard to believe that an ad can achieve all the objectives you've outlined here today.
ZEIGLER: Many times our ads have multiple objectives. In the Other Woman, Ltd. anti-alimony ad, the first and most important objective was to provoke journalists' interest. The second objective was to change public attitudes. The third objective was to change the laws. In that order. Now a peripheral objective, of course, was to raise money so that we would have enough funds for operational expenses, more leaflets and more advertising.
Quite often publishers and clients will say to me, "You're out of your mind. Why do you put all this information in the ad? An ad can only do just so much." Well we've proved just the opposite, an ad can do all these things, and many more. It depends on what information you put in the coupon. But it is critical that the ad have one primary objective. Very often a secondary objective can be achieved but more often than not an ad, if it's to be successful, should focus primarily only on one objective. The coupon and other points in the copy can focus on the other objectives but the headline, subheadline, and subheads should primarily underscore the primary objective.
REASON: What other points can you tell us that will be helpful to libertarians in preparing their own posters, leaflets and ads?
ZEIGLER: Adopt what I call the OARAF. Broken down that means Objective, Audience, Rationale, Actions, and Funding. Before you even put paper to pencil to write an ad or headline you must think through the OARAF, which is the guts of the ad, the basic structure of any communications whether it is a letter to the editor, an inhouse memo, or any form of communication. The Objective simply means what do-able action do you want on the part of the reader? What do you want him to do after he's through reading your ad? The Audience means simply who are you talking to? Are they liberals, conservatives, blacks, whites, men, women, and what age group. It's critical to have a firm fix on who your audience is. Rationale simply means the reason why I should buy your argument. And that usually pertains to self interest, i.e., if you want me to join your organization called "Committee to Abolish Victimless Crimes" why should I join? Why is it in my interest to? And this has to clearly ring throughout all the ad and hopefully the headline will express that rationale. If the issue is too complex to be able to express distinctly in that headline maybe you cheat a little and use an umbrella or borrowed interest headline and explain the rationale in the subheadline but the rationale has to be very quickly in evidence. If you observe most ads for libertarian publications or libertarian organizations they've simply ignored that last factor—the rationale—and have glibly gone on to write a very clever or tricky headline thinking, "Oh well, this is the way that Madison Ave. does it so it must be right." Not true.
The next point is Actions. This is not the do-able action I am talking about as far as the objective is concerned; I'm talking about other actions you may wish the reader to take—a letter to a Congressman, a letter to an editor, or a letter to a state legislator. If achieving your objectives means that you need five dollars or five thousand dollars from contributors by all means this is an action that should be incorporated into the coupon. The next point is Funding. Too often groups are not clear about how this ad is going to be funded. They start with very little notion of how to achieve free space.
REASON: How do they get the necessary funding to begin an ad?
ZEIGLER: They fund-raise. It's that simple. Over 18 billion dollars is given each year philanthropically. I have very little sympathy for a group that comes into my office pleading poverty. "Will you do this on a volunteer basis?" Because what it means is they don't want to take the initial, scary, and sweat-producing steps necessary to get some money. If it's a matter of raising the first $300, they can do that through a block party or a rummage sale. There are many common-sense ways that groups can fund-raise and acquire their first initial funds.
REASON: What do you think of the "ad making" potential of libertarians?
ZEIGLER: Probably 90% of all libertarians have written ads at one point. Whether they are ads for their particular causes or simple want ads when they wanted to get rid of a used car. The best ads in the newspapers today are want ads. Simply because the writer has given serious thought to his unique selling proposition, and his OARAF. For instance, "Used car for sale. Owned by two little old ladies in tennis shoes. Never driven over 40 miles per hour and only driven 200 miles per year in the last 5 years." In that ad the sellers clearly knew what would appeal to the reader. Unfortunately when libertarians get around to making ads they think that because they've heard the statement you have to create attention to be noticed, they start employing what they think is a Madison Avenue technique of a diverting headline. Often it is simply borrowed interest and has nothing to do with what they are saying. And then they will use an illustration they think is arresting but it too often has nothing to do with what they really want to say and the objectives they want to achieve. People will read your ad if it pertains to their self interest. It's that simple.
REASON: What would you say is the unique selling proposition or rationale for anyone reading a libertarian political ad?
ZEIGLER: The rationale is simply that the Libertarian Party is finally a vehicle whereby people can begin controlling their own lives. That they do not have to go through life being powerless, that there are tools at their disposal to make effective changes in the system.
REASON: What other ways of communicating should libertarians use other than advertising?
ZEIGLER: I think they should write an ad even if they don't publish it. It requires one to consolidate ideas and philosophy down to one simple sentence. Most people don't like to do that and shun that kind of discipline. Yet it enables one to go from there—from the development of a complex story into one sentence—to all of the component necessities: copy, text, slogans, placards, publicity releases, etc. But everything emanates out of the structure of that first ad.
If you cannot afford an ad or you don't have the time to fund-raise, or build an organization to fund-raise, press conferences are a good vehicle for getting your point across to the public. The New Left was extremely skillful in staging demonstrations that were covered by the media. In New York, 6 million people watch the six o'clock news. That's a huge amount of coverage for any particular point you want to make.
In addition you can write radio and television stations and request copies of their editorials so that your organization can reply. Again letters to the editors are extremely important. Appearances on talk shows are very valuable and these are not as hard to get on as you may think. People in the media, reporters, journalists, and producers need content—they are starving from lack of material. They want people who can make news and libertarians are in a decidedly advantageous position today of being able to offer sensible, reasonable alternative points of view, suggestions and solutions to specific social problems. Our views are looked forward to and welcomed and this is something we must capitalize on. We've already spoken briefly about the importance of direct mail. This is an area where you can start very small with a very small list, test its effectiveness, and if it's proved that its paid its own way, you can proceed from there to enlarge that list and talk to many more people and raise more funds.
REASON: If libertarians were to address themselves to one primary issue today what should it be?
ZEIGLER: At the risk of sounding repetitious: the problem of futility, apathy, feelings of despair, feelings of powerlessness, and frustration that the courts and politicians are not responding to injustices. That's the issue we should be talking about. We should be showing people how they can exercise more control over their own lives.
REASON: What about public access television?
ZEIGLER: This is another vehicle that we should involve ourselves in. Also, although America is not yet a poster-oriented country, posters are extremely valuable in getting our ideas across. Those are also items that could be sold. And local libertarian candidates have a grand opportunity to gain access to the equal time provisions under the Fairness Doctrine. I think it's damned unfortunate that our candidate for President and Vice President cannot have this kind of access. But there is a cause that libertarians can involve themselves in and correct that particular injustice before the next election.
REASON: Are you optimistic about the use of communications by libertarians to effect change?
ZEIGLER: Only partially. Unless you've written an ad, had it published, and had the experience of receiving hundreds or thousands of replies in the form of congratulatory letters, and contributions, you really cannot fully appreciate the rewards and the power of advertising to eliminate the misuse of power. Unless you've been in the communications business, and unless you've experienced these kind of results it is really hard to appreciate the fact that mass communications can bring about a more voluntary society. I also do not think libertarians are angry enough to commit themselves to the use of the media. I still think as a group we're too interested in engaging in intellectual exercises and talking to ourselves and formulating our own concepts. Again, I don't want to put this down, because I think this is an extremely important, valid, growth process. It is just that at a certain point in growth do you say to yourself: "I have an idea here that is worth exploring internally and with others but is it time now to take this idea, imperfect though it may be, even though there is dissension in our own ranks on specific concepts, do we not now take this idea before the public?"
I don't think anyone will be moved to take the libertarian philosophy to the public unless they are extremely fearful and angry. I happen to be both. As I mentioned previously, I simply would like to see more of a total committment on the part of the libertarian movement to use its own resources. There is a lot of talent in the communication industry available to further our ideas. What I've observed in a lot of the interest groups that I've worked with is a built-in self-destruct. An example is the anti-alimony movement. It became quite obvious that the hundreds of males that responded to our organization did not really want to get rid of the alimony laws; because then they would have no enemies—nothing to complain about. They would have to readjust their lives and fill a void. This goes back to Hoffer's claim that people who join movements don't really want to be free. They want a sense of community. The other thing I've observed on the part of many interest groups is that the cause itself is not important. What is important to them is their own personal ambitions and collections of power. As a result, the cause suffers.
This could happen with the libertarian movement. It could happen if we became too caught up in talking to ourselves and not detailing strategic plans to bring about the end of statism. The communications tools are there, well-proved, ready for us to use; it's just a matter of knowing what we want to do with them.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Advertising and Social Change".