A Candidate For The Harried Consumer


October 18, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

For all the voters out there who've found themselves in desperate need of bed linens and lip balm, the choice in the 3rd District is clear. John White, the Republican running against John Sarbanes, is the guy who brought Blistex to Bed Bath & Beyond. He also put Tylenol and Splenda on the shelves of Office Depot, and - his latest coup - Campbell's soup and Chex snack mix in Home Depot.

Ever wonder why you can pick up drywall and chicken noodle soup at the same store? Of course not. You just think, "Great! Now I don't have to stop at Safeway." But somebody had to dream up those odd, one-stop shopping opportunities, otherwise known as "alternate channels marketing." It boils down to this: The stuff that sells in supermarkets also will sell in other stores - even if the products seem out of place - because shoppers are eternally hungry and in a hurry.

The idea came to White, now 36, while he was working for a marketing firm that helped makers of food, health and beauty products negotiate the politics of supermarket end caps and shelf space. He created Compass Marketing in Annapolis with "zero customers, no clients and no money." Eight years later, he said, the firm has 10 Fortune 100 companies as clients and about $60 million in annual sales. And White has become wealthy enough to bankroll a run for Congress.

Can the marketing seer who put Tylenol within easy reach count on the harried consumer vote?

"Maybe I've cured a few voters' headaches over the years," he said. "And if that translates into a vote, great."

Clients and advisers

A few more John White tidbits. White's business Web site lists some big-name clients: "Unilever, Gillette, Johnson & Johnson, McCormick, Blistex, Campbell's, SC Johnson, Mood-lites, Slim Fast and Del Monte." All ringing a bell but Mood-lites. What's that? His wife's company, which makes colored light bulbs that promise to improve your mood. ... White announced before the primary that Chris LaCivita would be advising him. The political strategist was part of the team behind the Swift Boat campaign that helped sink John Kerry. LaCivita, whom White described as a friend, also is advising Virginia Sen. George "macaca" Allen. He has less time now for his pal in Maryland. "He was a lot more involved in the primary," White said. "As you can see, he's got his hands full in Virginia."

Thanks but no thanks

Big ad in the Baltimore Jewish Times begins, in large type: "Thank you, Governor Ehrlich, from the Baltimore Jewish Community." Tiny, tiny print at the bottom says who's behind the thank-you: Bob Ehrlich for Maryland.

"This isn't Bob Ehrlich giving Bob Ehrlich a pat on the back," said spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver.

"A group of community leaders" paid for the ad, DeLeaver said, but for some reason, their names were left off. (They'll set the record straight next issue, she said.) She said the campaign was listed - "on the advice of legal counsel" - because it provided some details for the ad, which lists some things Ehrlich has done for Jewish Marylanders.

Many people, missing the microscopic authority line, assumed The Associated paid for the ad, partly because there's a picture at the top of the governor speaking at a podium with the Jewish group's logo on it. As a nonprofit organization, The Associated does not make political endorsements.

"It's been problematic, and it has resulted in, clearly, a number of people being upset with the organized Jewish community," said Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council and spokesman for The Associated. "We have had conversations about the campaign about this."

So much for the women's vote

Right after Don King stumped for Michael Steele, Mike Tyson got into the act. He put on a Steele for Senate T-shirt and told the Associated Press that the lieutenant governor - his ex-brother-in-law - changed his opinion of black Republicans as "sellouts."

This, in an article that says the boxer is thinking of fighting women.

"Mike Tyson Surprises Michael Steele with Terrifying Display of Support," was Wonkette's headline.

No comment from the Steele campaign. Back in March, Steele told The New York Times that he'd welcome the boxer's help on the campaign trail "in a heartbeat."

Of course, at that time The Baddest Man on the Planet was only notorious for ear-biting and rape. But fighting women? Now the guy's really tainted.

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