Dorothy Crenshaw September 17, 2009 | 11:26:27

Will Healthcare Damage Brand Obama?

In “Mad Men”‘s season debut, fictional ad man Don Draper quietly advises a colleague, “Limit your exposure.” It’s actually an oblique reference to his associate’s indiscretion (and his own secret past), but I thought of Draper’s advice today in a different context. I’ve finally joined the ranks of those who fear that President Obama may be overexposed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m charmed by Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden, and even those famous Obama arms. The president’s advice to schoolchildren was fine by me. I don’t mind the magazine covers, text messages, Facebook updates, or even hearing what he thinks of Kanye West…no surprise there. But, I’m concerned about what some have called the Obama omnipresence in his full-tilt quest for healthcare reform.

Is Obama trying to be our first Omnipresident? This weekend, Mr.Obama will “road block” the Sunday talk shows with no less than five TV appearances in a go-for-broke attempt to win over the public on healthcare reform. He’ll also be the sole guest on Letterman Monday night. The appearances come after the president’s third “60 Minutes” interview and two televised speeches on the issue. The media filibuster is unprecedented for a sitting president, and it has sparked – what else – even more coverage about the president’s press schedule as a test of his star power.

As chief executive, Mr. Obama is clearly the issue’s best advocate, but I worry about the fatigue factor – or as we say in marketing, brand dilution. Healthcare’s a complicated, torturous, and risky issue. In a prominent story about a month ago, “Health Debate Fails To Ignite Obama’s Grass Roots”  the Times reported on the relative failure of the  president’s vaunted grassroots network to mobilize in support of reform. And some polls indicate that the more the public hears about the issue, the less support it gives to the president’s proposal.

If it were up to me, I’d add more surrogates to the White House healthcare outreach and more airtime to Congressional allies. But, as at least one (Republican) adviser explains on ABC News, “If you are not communicating, your opponent will be.” In the end, Mr. Obama has little choice but to keep slogging. I’m reminded of another industry maxim that I first heard before a big client presentation. “Tell them, Then, tell them what you told them, Then, tell them again.” With an issue as complicated and divisive as this one, maybe we do need the All-Obama-All-The-Time media offensive, or what the pols call “the full Ginsberg“. Here’s hoping it can achieve a successful – and civil – resolution.

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