Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Branding the CIA
Among the world’s most glamorized and vilified agencies, the CIA is keeping up with the times, and presenting a new image to the public with a digital facelift – a prerequisite for any brand presence in the 21st century, particularly one charged with national intelligence.
It's also reaching out beyond its website, as evidenced by the above. America's Central Intelligence Agency has a new video on its YouTube channel — that’s right the CIA has a YouTube channel — as the first in a series of webisodes meant to engage not only the public, but children.
The CIA K-9 CAM web series, features a specially-trained canine host named Bradley, a black lab that's meant to engage kids as much as Dora the Explorer or Diego might. It’s part of a push to make the infamous spy agency more transparent and user-friendly.
The agency's revamped website now links to YouTube and Flickr with current and historical videos about the agency and copyright-free pictures from CIA.gov.
In keeping with this friendlier public face, the site also added a robust "Kids' page" arranged by K-5 and 6-12, with sections for Parents and Teachers, Puzzles and Games, and links to other national security agencies such as - Defense Intelligence Agency Kids and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Children’s Page, and, of course, Bradley’s homebase.
Continued enhancements in the next few months include a truncated, text-based mobile-friendly version of the full site and translation to foreign languages.
"The idea behind these improvements is to make more information about the Agency available to more people, more easily," stated CIA Director Leon Panetta. "The CIA wants the American people and the world to understand its mission and its vital role in keeping our country safe."
As far back as George Washington days, the U.S. has carried out “intelligence activities,” but it was during World War II that President Franklin D. Roosevelt named New York lawyer and war hero, William J. Donovan as Coordinator of Information, and subsequently head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1942. The OSS was the forerunner to the CIA.
Hollywood has reaped a box-office bonanza from movies about the agency including the Bourne film series with Matt Damon, Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise, Patriot Games and more, including the Fockers franchise starring Robert De Niro as a retired CIA agent. (On the down side, there was Naomi Woods as Valerie Plame in Fair Game, a tale of betrayal and political chicanery involving the agency.)
Teens, meanwhile, may already engage with the CIA brand via videogames based on Tom Clancy books, such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell and Solid Snake.
Now, with Bradley the black lab, there's a new mascot and digital initiative to foster the brand's image even younger. While we doubt the CIA will go as far as Disney and distribute branded onesies to newborn Americans, it's a fascinating branding story we'll be watching.