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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 08:33 GMT 09:33 UK
11 September creates ad quandary
The Ad Council's Campaign for Freedom, which features this ad showing front porches festooned with flags following 11 September.
Many ads to air on 11 September will feature patriotism

Is this the perfect advert to screen on September 11?

A row of clapboard porches in Bayonne, New Jersey.

September 11 isn't going to be a great day to sell soap

Margaret Duffy, professor of advertising
"On September 11, terrorists tried to change our lives forever," says a narrator as the first picture fades to black.

The second shot features the same row of houses festooned with American flags, over which the voice says, "They succeeded."

But there is no product for sale, no company name attached, it's a public service ad to boost US patriotism.

For commercial advertisers it is more difficult to find the right tone.

The US advertising industry, already laid low from a sales slump, stands to lose tens of millions more dollars due to a cutback in adverts on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Many companies, afraid to offend Americans on the anniversary, are opting not to run ads that day.

New York's Madison Avenue, the home of the advertising industry, and television networks are bracing for a loss of up to $60m (39.2m) as firms from stalwart General Motors to beer-maker Miller Brewing yank their adverts.

"September 11 isn't going to be a great day to sell soap," says Margaret Duffy, professor of advertising at the University of Missouri.

"The hit they're going to take by taking no advertising, if that's what they choose, is going to be horrible."

No ads

The predicted drop in ad revenues comes on a day when more Americans than ever are expected to be glued to their televisions, watching footage of last year's disaster and this year's commemorative events.

Running no ads
General Motors
Coca Cola
United Airlines
American Airlines

For its part, Fox, the upstart network majority-owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, has decided not to run any advertising on the anniversary date.

The other major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, are still mulling their plans on whether to accept ads or agree to sponsorship deals for special programming.

Some companies, such as beverage makers Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, computer maker Dell and General Motors, are halting all advertising for the day.

Boeing, the maker of the four planes that crashed on 11 September, is in negotiations with NBC to sponsor a special "concert for America", an idea Ms Duffy says makes her "queasy".

"I'm not sure what they would gain from doing it," she says. "It seems to me a high-risk/low-reward strategy."

Displaced ads

That is an evaluation many say could apply to any firm that chooses to advertise on the anniversary of the deaths of 3,000 people.

Dell Computer ad featuring Steven, as portrayed by the actor Benjamin Curtis
Dell won't run ads with its iconic computer 'dude'

Research shows that while most Americans will not mind seeing ads on the anniversary date, a substantial number said they would be offended and likely to change their viewpoint of the firms that choose to run them.

Even as some experts warn of sharply reduced revenues, not everyone agrees 11 September will mean massive losses for the ad industry.

"It's just one day," says Allen Banks, executive media director at ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

"You normally don't buy on a day-to-day basis to begin with," he says.

But advertisers can opt out on a specific day, especially if the programming is something they do not want to be associated with.

The industry can expect to lose just $10m-20m, says Jack Myers, who authors the Jack Myers Report, an industry newsletter.

"Most advertising that does not air or run on the 11th, will be displaced to dates either before or after the 11th," he says.

Boosting pride

The not-for-profit Ad Council, which produces public-service announcements (PSAs), expects the networks will air its "Freedom" ads on 11 September.

Coca Cola has nixed ads, and McDonald's may, too
Television networks, as well as radio stations, donate air time to the Ad Council for its PSAs, so it has no way of knowing how much time it will get to air the series of ads, aimed at boosting American pride.

"We believe that these PSAs have the ability to comfort and inspire Americans as they reflect on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks," says Ad Council spokeswoman Susan Jacobsen.

The ad featuring the row of New Jersey homes festooned with flags was produced by the Ad Council, and Ms Jacobsen says they have been overwhelmingly received.

"I'll even go so far as to say unprecedented."

In response, she says, the ad agency that produced the ads, DeVito Verdi, is publishing a book of all the "wonderful" responses from Americans all over who were touched by the spot.

New York despatches





See also:

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