- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

Advertisers are anxiously searching for the proper tone, if one exists, for messages printed and broadcast on September 11.
It's a day unlike any other for the advertising community, as well as the country, as Americans solemnly remember the terrorist attacks of one year ago.
"Advertisers are erring on the side of caution," says Andy Malis, president of MGH, an advertising firm in Baltimore. "People are staying away from advertising. They are concerned about how they are going to be perceived."
It's likely that the companies that do advertise whether in newspapers or on television or radio will choose patriotic and respectful commemoration themes.
But advertising will largely be dictated by the programming or broadcasts that day. Many television and radio conglomerates are refusing advertising or program sponsorships during their extensive coverage of the anniversary events.
Fox and Fox News Channel was the first media group to say it would not accept advertising during its September 11 programming, resulting in about a $5 million loss in revenue for the day. Some networks have followed, and they each will lose an estimated $6 million by omitting advertising in prime time.
September 11-oriented programs on Discovery Networks will be commercial-free that day and before the anniversary. "We hope that our programming will provide viewers with solace and understanding and feel that advertising would be unsuitable during this time," Billy Campbell, president of Discovery Networks, says.
Nextel Communications of Reston will sponsor CBS' rebroadcast of the "9/11" documentary, which aired in March. The two-hour, commercial-free program focusing on a firehouse near the World Trade Center will acknowledge Nextel's contribution one of the few companies to be affiliated with September 11 programming.
"I believe you will see very muted, low-key advertising, if any at all," says Doug Laughlin, president of Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens, an Arlington ad agency. "There is a huge awareness in the ad community. This is going to become a day of great reverence. I hope [advertisers] are not going to try to exploit this."
More than 50 percent of U.S. consumers say marketers should go dark September 11, according to an Ad Age survey conducted last month.
However, 62 percent say their opinion of a company would not change if it advertised that day. Of those who said their opinions would change, the majority said they would view the company negatively.
Radio stations around the country are putting advertising on hold that day. For example, Bonneville International's three Washington-area radio stations all-news WTOP, classical-music station WGMS-FM (103.5) and adult pop music station WWZZ-FM (104.1) will go commercial-free.
The TV networks, when they do break from their programming, are likely to fill space with public service announcements with patriotism and messages of freedom.
Immediately after the attacks last year, the Ad Council, a nonprofit advertising group, created a series of public service announcements with messages of hope, healing and comfort. The Ad Council has had requests from some of the networks for copies.
"Our messages have really touched Americans," says Susan Murphy-Jacobsen, a spokeswoman for the New York group. "These are the types of messages they need on September 11th."
Political advertising will be scarce on and around September 11, despite falling in prime campaigning time. The Republican National Committee will halt all advertising during that week. A dozen primaries are being held Sept. 10, including those in Maryland and in the District.
Many big advertisers such as Target, Wal-Mart and Sears, Roebuck & Co. will not advertise at all. Neither will Weight Watchers and Papa John's, two of MGH's clients. "We've taken an appropriate gesture to withhold television advertising," Target spokesman Doug Kline says. The discount retailer is withholding print ads except for a special "personal" message to New York residents in the New York Times Sunday edition.
Target is affiliated with a September 11-themed exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in the District, which will begin Sept. 7 and run through Nov. 11. The exhibit, which started in New York, displays pictures of the Pentagon, World Trade Center and Pennsylvania crash taken by amateur and professional photographers.
Mr. Laughlin says such like sponsoring an event is acceptable if done tastefully and only if it is "not using the day to get their name out there. Companies respond to the emotions of their people."
Newspapers (including The Washington Times) will publish special sections, even extra editions commemorating the day. The ads will be different from the usual midweek, one-day sale reminders from retailers. Instead, they will be special sections of remembrance and tribute.
"Overall, we're not going to see a lot of advertising," says John Kimball, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of the Newspaper Association of America. "There is such heightened sensitivity."
Mr. Kimball says the ads that will run on the first anniversary are likely to be reminiscent of those that ran immediately after the attacks. "I suspect with tribute advertising you will see simple messages asking people to remember and certainly not to respond to merchandise sales."
The newspaper association, whose members account for nearly 90 percent of the daily newspaper circulation in the United States, has distributed a tribute ad for publication in newspapers and magazines. The ad features a simple vertical American flag with two of the red stripes in black representing the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. The words "In Memoriam" appear at the bottom.
Newspapers won't have much space for stories other than those related to September 11, and public relation executives know it.
"September 11th needs to be a somber time for remembrance," says Mike O'Brien, executive vice president of MGH Public Relations in Baltimore. "We're not going to be pitching stories. The media will be focused on" other stories.
Mr. O'Brien says the firm has been preparing clients for the past six months and shifting strategies to adjust to September 11 events. If the agency or clients did attempt to pitch stories around September 11, it is likely that they would come across as insensitive, and that their efforts would fall by the wayside, he added.
The Direct Marketing Association has urged its members to refrain from unsolicited e-mail and telephone marketing campaigns that day. If they do conduct a campaign, they should do so with "the utmost caution and respect on this solemn day of remembrance," according to a message sent out to the DMA's members.
Last month Opt In Inc., a direct e-mail marketing firm in Boca Raton, Fla., decided not to send out ads September 11. "We are having a total blackout for ads on September 11th," says Martin Davis, director of media buying. "We just didn't want to send any ads out to our subscribers that day." The company typically sends out 50 million e-mail advertisements a day.
But it will be business as usual for CC Communications Inc., an e-mail marketing firm in Charlotte, N.C. "None of our clients have changed their plans for September 11," says Kip Cozart, president of CC Communications. "We may send out a memorial type of announcement the day before, but other than that there is no real change in our marketing."
Marguerite Higgins contributed to this report.


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