Madison Avenue, Moscow

Marketing in the now-defunct U.S.S.R. was a simple proposition: take it or leave it. But things are way different in the revived Russia. Comrades (or whatever they call themselves now) are currently being inundated with what we in the West would refer to as a full-fledged, multi-platform public relations campaign.

Marketing in the now-defunct U.S.S.R. was a simple proposition: take it or leave it. But things are way different in the revived Russia. Comrades (or whatever they call themselves now) are currently being inundated with what we in the West would refer to as a full-fledged, multi-platform public relations campaign.

The inescapably ubiquitous star is none other than President Vladimir Putin. Although the Kremlin denies there’s a deliberate personality-cult offensive going on, it sure doesn’t sound like pure serendipity. We’re talking Putin-branded beer, watches, calendars, T-shirts, dish towels, lollipops, tomatoes, kebabs and even an ice cream called ‘Sweet Little Vladimir.’

And if you snap on a radio anywhere from Red Square to the snowy steppes, you’re bound to hear a girl group no one ever heard of before warbling a little ditty called ‘A Man Like Putin.’ The lyrics pine for ‘someone like Putin, who doesn’t drink. Someone like Putin, who doesn’t hurt me. Someone like Putin, who doesn’t run away.’

None of Putin’s spinmeisters are taking credit for the coup or even chanting ‘Da, da, PR.’ But their boss’s approval ratings have recently soared to 70%.