BOB GARFIELD: In a March poll by the Pew Center for People and the Press, 62 percent of Frenchmen declared disapproval of the United States. So did 93 percent of Jordanians and 34 percent of Britons. Anybody who still asks "Why do they hate us?" just isn't paying attention. And anybody who replies "They hate our freedoms" isn't looking at the data. Seventy percent of Germans, according to the Pew poll, are less confident that the U.S. wishes to promote democracy. Sixty-six percent of Turks believe U.S. leaders lied about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Sixty-three percent of Moroccans believe America's motives are to control Middle East oil. So the question is: if the Great Satan is so damned unpopular, why exactly are the Golden Arches going gangbusters? [COMMERCIAL MUSIC: McDONALD'S] McDonald's grew more than 5 percent overseas so far this year. Coca-Cola is growing. Jack Daniels and MTV are growing. Marlboro, in spite of worldwide anti-tobacco legislation, is growing. It would seem to be a paradox: American products embraced and beloved, while America, the product, is met with contempt. In spearheading his magazine's annual brand survey, Business Week's senior editor Gerry Khermouch expected to see a backlash of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war on Iraq against America's commercial icons. What he found instead was ambivalence, writ large.
GERRY KHERMOUCH: We had bureau reporters in places like India who'd seen examples of people demonstrating against America, burning American flags in front of the embassy for the TV cameras, and once it was all over, they went down the street to McDonald's and had lunch.
AHMED ALI ABOUL GHEIT: Look at the Palestinians throwing rocks against Israelis -- the way they are dressed -- jeans, and often, tee shirts that have Disney characters on their chests.
BOB GARFIELD: Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit is permanent representative to the United Nations from Egypt where consumers have no difficulty compartmentalizing the American lifestyle they envy and the American politics they despise.
AHMED ALI ABOUL GHEIT: Yes, they objected to the war in Iraq. However, they maintained their liking to whatever that is still American, from McDonald's to Pizza Hut to American cars to American music, American films... [CLIP FROM FILM TITANIC - MUSIC]
LEONARDO DI CAPRIO: [SHOUTING] I'm king of the world! Whooo!
BOB GARFIELD: No, that wasn't Dick Cheney. It was Leonardo de Caprio in Titanic, one of the most successful American exports of all time, raking in more than 1.2 billion dollars in box office overseas. After the invasion of Iraq, Hollywood braced for a collision with an iceberg of anti-Americanism, because not only is Hollywood quintessentially American, it is also notoriously the vector for our alleged decadence, spiritual emptiness and moral depravity. But the catastrophic collision of foreign cultures and U.S. pop culture never came.
ELIZABETH GUIDER: Actually, the box office abroad has held up extremely well. In fact, it seems to be on the increase.
BOB GARFIELD: Elizabeth Guider is deputy editor of Variety magazine.
ELIZABETH GUIDER: Anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of the entire box office, say, in Italy is American movies -not Italian movies. In Indonesia, the most popular shows at the moment are Fear Factor and Survivor.
BOB GARFIELD: So yeah, Fear Factor is very well received. This wasn't. [CLIP PLAYS]
FAROUK MOHAMMED AMAR: My name is Farouk Mohammed Amar, paramedic for the Fire Department of New York. I have co-workers who are Jewish, who are Christian, Catholic, Hindu even - all, all different faiths.
BOB GARFIELD: Though the State Department insists the campaign's message of America as a hospitable environment for Muslims jimmied open doors of understanding, it was widely ridiculed in the Arab press and quickly pulled off the air. But is it really evidence of that mysterious paradox, or is it just a question of over-estimating the power of advertising? Keith Reinhart is chairman of the ad agency DDB Worldwide.
KEITH REINHART: No amount of advertising would ever be able to sell a product which hasn't been carefully designed for the intended audience. The first step is listening very carefully, through all the research we can gather so that we know what it is about the product we should promote, what it is we should change, and how we should conduct ourselves. We should certainly never start with the advertising step.
BOB GARFIELD: After all, for all the glitzy ad campaigns, nobody ever bought the Edsel, the Newton or Touch of Yogurt Shampoo. At the moment, rightly or wrongly, American foreign policy is an Edsel, and neither a series of State Department videos nor such American-produced media as Radio Sawa are going to change that. American business has taken note of the government's failure to win hearts and minds and is taking it upon itself to revitalize Brand America its own way. Ad executive Keith Reinhart also heads the Business for Diplomatic Action Initiative.
KEITH REINHART: It's about action. U.S. business could organize a collective intern program. Once young people come and actually live here, they are changed forever, as they go back to their home states. Listening programs. Youths, listening to one another - on line - possibly in a McDonald's or a Starbucks. The idea of Americans listening to the world.
BOB GARFIELD: MTV, for one, is listening. The Viacom cable network has created 94 music channels around the world in the image of the local cultures. A colorful, comical Bollywood take in India; high-tech everything in Japan; and in Indonesia, five times daily, a call to prayer.
STEVEN RAMBAM: You can fragment the American brand experience into a thousand pieces, but the fundamental basis of it would have to do with the rule of law, the, the belief in freedom, the opportunities for the individual.
BOB GARFIELD: Charlotte Beers, for all her difficulties in her brief tenure as under secretary of state for public diplomacy, also still believes the greatest opportunity is to mine that core for the hope it still represents.
STEVEN RAMBAM: America is one of the most complex and fascinating brands I've ever met.
BOB GARFIELD: Some bridle at the very notion of America, the brand, but a brand, by definition, is not an accumulation of hype; it is the accumulation of core values and benefits -- both intrinsic and perceived. The challenge facing the State Department and the nation at large is to persuade a skeptical world that Brand America is new and improved.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: We first broadcast Bob's piece back in March.