What's New Among Executive Pitchmen

Why Greenspan Stumped for Apple

By Susan Sontag
The New York Times

September 7, 1986

LAST year, from March through July, Apple Computer ran a series of TV and print ads focusing on two ''achievers'' who used Apple computers. For one of those achievers, the connection to Apple was clear-cut - she was Barbara Blackborn, a secretary who set the world speed typing record on an Apple IIc.

But the other was Alan Greenspan, who did not even own an Apple computer before the commercial aired. (The company gave him one afterward). From Apple's point of view he provided ''name value and believability,'' says Bruce S. Mowery, the company's advertising and sales promotion manager. And from Mr. Greenspan's vantage point, the Apple commercials provided a chance to do ''something different from what you do day-to-day,'' as well as an opportunity to shoot jibes at politicians and Government economists.

Mr. Greenspan's Apple ads, which he says he helped write, told the story of a prominent politician who calls Mr. Greenspan asking for advice on the budget - ''not that budget, my budget.'' The script strongly suggests that a consumer with a home computer just might be more adept at finance than the Federal Government.

Those ''relevant'' references to the Federal deficit, along with the overall wry humor of the script, ''just might have been enough'' to persuade Mr. Greenspan to do the commercials, he says.

In fact, there were more concrete inducements as well. The exact amount that Apple paid Mr. Greenspan remains ''between him and his accountant,'' said Mr. Mowery. However, Mr. Mowery said that, unlike Ms. Blackborn, Mr. Greenspan received ''a certain premium for the name,'' about the same as a well-known actor might have received. ''He was a very good negotiator,'' Mr. Mowery said. ''The man knows the value of a dollar.'

Mr. Greenspan, who is now the head of Townsend-Greenspan & Company, says he regularly gets offers to hawk products, but turns most of them down.

''I would not do a straight advertisement, a liquor ad or something that strikes me as inappropriate for an economist,'' he said. ''My reaction to most has been, and still is, I'm not interested.''

Looking back at the filming process, Mr. Mowery remembers Mr. Greenspan as a natural before the cameras, someone who ''could have been born to acting.'' Mr. Greenspan's recollections are couched in a businessman's terms. He found taping a commercial -which involved ''the makeup person, the script person and a whole entourage'' - to be ''an extraordinarily expensive operation.''

GRAPHIC: Photos of ads featuring Alan Greenspan, Ted Turner, John Connally and Walter Wriston

Copyright 1986 The New York Times Company