USO storms Hollywood to rekindle its celebrity ties

LOS ANGELES: The USO is coming to town this week as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize its Hollywood ties and counter claims that its war programs are unpopular with many liberal celebrities.

LOS ANGELES: The USO is coming to town this week as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize its Hollywood ties and counter claims that its war programs are unpopular with many liberal celebrities.

"We just have not gone to the [entertainment] business enough with our message," said John Hanson, USO SVP of marketing and communications. "We need to remind agents and publicists that this is a good thing to do."

Although recent conflicts around the globe have led to increased press coverage for the USO, its profile has slipped since the days of Bob Hope and Vietnam. This effort is aimed at reviving that image with the gatekeepers of celebrities, from studio executives to PR reps.

"The challenge with entertainers is to get publicists and agents to look at us as an opportunity," said Terri Kaufman, account director at advertising agency Williams Whittle, which has worked with the USO for three years.

Hanson added that the USO will be addressing a recent article in Variety that claimed stars did not want to work with the USO because it was viewed as conservative.

"The difference between today and Vietnam is that people have made the intelligent leap in understanding the difference in supporting or opposing a policy and supporting the troops," he said. "We haven't run into anybody, whether they support the war or not, who doesn't support the troops."

The efforts at repositioning the USO began when new management took over in 2002 and realized the brand was fading.

"We got here and just assumed that everybody knew about the USO, but we discovered that a lot of people didn't," said Hanson.

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