With President Bush encouraging America to get back to work,
advertisers and PR execs are being forced to walk a tightrope as they
try to get on with business, while also adjusting to the times. Media
reports suggest that while businesses are starting back up, it will be a
long time before it's business as usual.
Two weeks ago, Media Watch wrote about the domino effect the crippled
airline industry has had on the tourism and leisure industries. The same
can be said for the impact of the sudden dearth of advertising on the
media sector. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, two factors
appear to have broadsided both the advertising and media sectors:
round-the-clock, commercial-free broadcast coverage, and the sudden
cancellation of many print and broadcast ads by ad agencies.
Coverage observed that advertising, a $215-billion-a-year
industry, is reeling following the terrorist attacks. Industry analyst
firm Robertson Stephens told the Los Angeles Times (September 20) that
the broadcast industry alone will lose as much as $1.1 billion in
ad revenue due to the attacks. The Washington Post (September 20)
commented that the four major networks went four days without running an
ad, the longest stretch since Kennedy's assassination in 1963, while CNN
and Fox News went six days without running an ad.
Media reports are noticing that while some companies are still not yet
advertising, many of those that are advertising have completely revamped
their ads to be more appropriate for the times. The Houston Chronicle
(September 27) wrote, "Advertisers are discovering that messages that
were funny, lighthearted, and otherwise appropriate two weeks ago now
have the power to horrify and offend."
The change in the news media environment has also impacted PR execs.
Porter Novelli "advised clients to lay low. News outlets will be
preoccupied with terrorist coverage for an indefinite period, and
standard PR pitches are likely to fall on deaf ears," (The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, September 22).
In light of this, advertisers have moved quickly to make the necessary
changes. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (September 23) put it, "Edgy,
ironic, and funny are out. Solemn, sympathetic, and patriotic are
Of the new themes in advertising, patriotism seems to be the most
The Tampa Tribune (September 27) added some historical perspective by
publishing comments by Wally Snyder, the chief executive of the American
Advertising Federation, to the effect that "not since World War II has
there been such a flurry of patriotic advertising."
A number of articles reported that 2001 had been a rough year for
advertisers even before September 11. The New York Times (September 27)
attributed advertising's difficulties to "the dot-com collapse and the
overall slowing of the economy." There were also a handful of reports
that the attacks had all but guaranteed that 2002 would not see a
recovery in the advertising market, as some had expected.
Throughout the coverage, there were voices of caution that advertisers
and PR pros should proceed with care, making sure whatever strategy they
use could not possibly be viewed as opportunistic. "Avoid any
self-serving press releases at this time," advised one executive. "And
if you're going to tie in events that have happened, be tasteful about
it" (Sun-Sentinel, September 27).
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found