Life, business continue after America's tragedy

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The unprecedented events of the past several days, both the horror and the heroism, continue to reverberate in our personal and professional lives.

On Page 1, we offer a pair of stories on the terrorist attacks last week. The first, by Senior Reporter Kate Maddox, chronicles the experiences of marketing and agency professionals, your colleagues based in New York City and in Washington. "You couldn’t believe it had happened," said Saatchi & Saatchi Managing Partner Tim Love, whose offices are a mile away from where the World Trade Center towers once stood. "There were people in our building standing there who witnessed the whole thing."

The second story, written by Senior Reporter Philip B. Clark, compiles multiple BtoB staff reports about the impact the attacks have already had on the operational side of the marketing business, from advertising schedules to event travel. This story also covers the short-term plans of top marketers, from financial services companies directly affected by the destruction of the World Trade Center to West Coast-based high-technology firms, a number of whom had already been hurt by a sluggish economy.

But the truism remains: Life goes on. Against the backdrop of a grim national trauma, the vast majority of businesses are open; people are at work, trying as best they know how to plan for the future.

With this in mind, BtoB’s front page also includes a thorough analysis of the multifarious brand issues facing Hewlett-Packard Co.’s plan to acquire Compaq Computer Corp. Contributing Writer Sean Callahan reached HP and Compaq, as well as many outside observers, about the choices HP will need to make if this major acquisition goes through.

Over the years, I’ve covered more than my share of technology company mergers. Most start with enthusiasm, optimism and hyperbole. Most end with disappointed former executives, investors and customers.

One marketing-centered activity—too often boggled in tech mergers—is communicating a product roadmap to customers. "They need to deliver a vision for how the product lines will look a year or two out," says John Foley, editor-print at CMP’s Information Week.

My own observation is that tech mergers, like mergers of all kinds, suffer from disingenuous executives who insist—no matter what the press or investors observe—that their rationale is about product or market "synergy," not cost savings. To its credit, HP has played up what it sees as the financial advantages of the deal, including some $2.5 billion in annual savings.

But maybe discussions of money can be put aside, if only briefly. As Morgan Stanley said in its full-page Wall Street Journal advertisement: "What happened on September 11 was not a financial tragedy, but a human one."

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