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Ads to Try to Reach Through the Madness

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By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, March 16, 2006

They may not be controversial Super Bowl commercials, but a series of humorous ads designed to remind the public and lawmakers of the broad benefits of higher education and the need for government support are set to start airing tonight on CBS and ESPN -- timed for March Madness.

The campaign is a pro bono effort started by a Texas advertising executive and a businessman, longtime friends who decided something needed to be done.

Roy Spence Jr. , president of Austin-based advertising company GSD&M , said he and Bob Utley , chairman of First Worthing, began talking two years ago about doing something to promote higher education to help the country maintain its middle class and its competitive edge. Both grew up in small towns and are graduates of the University of Texas.

Education "sure leveled the playing field for me," Spence said.

He said they researched the issues, then took their project to the American Council on Education, which represents higher education institutions, in Washington.

The ACE, which is putting up only $1.5 million for the campaign, is, of course, delighted for the contributions. The airtime alone would have amounted to $25 million.

While inspired by budget cuts at the state and federal level, the advertising grass-roots campaign is not aimed at any particular legislation, ACE Senior Vice President Terry W. Hartle said. Instead, it's a long-term effort to persuade people and politicians to support higher education.

The ads show how medical advancements such as open-heart surgery, new information technology, and police training came out of colleges and universities.

ACE is hoping the ad campaign will direct people to seek information at a new Web site, http://www.solutionsforourfuture.org .

The NCAA is providing airtime for the ads during the basketball championships; the public service announcements will continue on ESPN throughout the spring. Fox Television will be airing the public service announcements, and full-page ads will run in the Wall Street Journal.

ACE said other support is coming from its members, TIAA-CREF, Campus Compact and First Worthing/University Partners of Dallas.

Drugstores Chief May Quit

Craig L. Fuller , one of the senior lobbyists and Republican operatives in town, appears to be on his way out at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, where he has been president and chief executive for more than five years.


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