MEDIA WATCH: Ad industry gets back to work, but faces sizeablefinancial loss

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


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