And now, a preliminary In the Loop review of the best and worst video “introductions” the State Department has produced as U.S. ambassadors head overseas.
The slick videos are TV-broadcast quality — though they’ll likely be seen more on YouTube or on embassies’ Web sites. There’s a lot of “so-honored- and-excited” chatter mixed with generally brief, sometimes painful, efforts to speak the local language, photos of the nominee with President Obama and/or President Clinton, talk about increasing trade, historical ties, friendship and so on.
The 90-second to two-minute videos follow a general format, but “these are unique to the ambassador and what he or she wants to say,” a State official told us. Most all have an emphasis on hobbies and interests, along with family members and photos “to add a personal touch.”
What the ambassadors include is generally up to them. “It’s a consultative process,” we were told, and officials at each embassy “sign off” to ensure it’s going to resonate locally. Production, begun in 2011, is being ramped up, with 20 now in the works. They’ve apparently been very well received in the host countries.
We sampled a few of those done by mega-bundlers and other political appointees. Ambassador to Sweden Mark Brzezinski (brother of Mika, son of Zbig), who worked on the Clinton White House national security staff, turned in a solid performance
And ambassador to Austria, philanthropist and bundler Alexa Wesner — easily matched that, especially on the version she did in German, which impressed our colleagues.
Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, despite the video’s having him spend a bit too much time kayaking on the Potomac, did well.
And ambassador to Belgium Denise Bauer – though she seemed a bit tentative — also turned in a good performance.
Our colleagues judged one video, ambassador to Germany John Emerson’s, a bit over-exuberant,starting with the “Heeere’s Johnny” where he loudly proclaims “Hah lowwwww Deutschland!!”
The former Clinton White House official and major bundler’s praise of the wonders of California and hometown Los Angeles gives the video a campaign commercial feel — almost as if he were planning a run — as does the lengthy focus on his family and talk about loving film, tennis, golf and skiing. (We’re not going to get into the truly odd underwater photo in scuba gear.)
Despite the embassy clearance process, colleagues who worked in Germany and a German reporter panned that video, noting that Germans are quite formal in general and most serious about foreign policy and government.
They couldn’t pick (Chancellor) Angela Merkel’s husband out of a line-up, one colleague noted, and they don’t care.
“It’s silly and feeds into the stereotype that Germans think Americans are spacey, trying to be too happy,” the German reporter said. “It’s not offensive, just American.”
“Hey! We like hot dogs,” the State Department official noted. The job of ambassadors ” is to be Americans.”
Well, there’s that.