Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., the once happily obscure bond brokerage, was etched into the nation's consciousness Sept. 11 when it lost 658 souls at the World Trade Center. They went to work on a beautiful morning and an hour later they were dead.
The unimaginable human loss was also, of course, an unimaginable corporate loss. Cantor, and its subsidiary eSpeed, lost two-thirds of their staff. Only 342 survived to keep an international business afloat, and to protect the interests of clients trading billions of dollars in securities and currency.
So now, not quite nine months later, here comes the martyred brokerage in a national advertising campaign to tell its tale, to share its grief, to document its survival, to declare its determination and to announce its triumphs, personal and professional. It's a series of testimonies, shot sparely against a drab-green backdrop - which, believe you me, is the only drabness in evidence.
"I just remember looking up and just seeing that big hole and just thinking to myself, `That's our floor,"' says an employee named Mike Morroni in one spot, about being delayed getting to work and arriving to discover hell. The question: How to cope with such enormity? "I think for me it was getting back to work. That's the one thing that was keeping our minds off things and making us go on."
Work as a reason for going on. It's a recurring theme in this campaign from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York.
"I knew that I couldn't just sit there," says marketing VP Amy Nauiokas in one spot, "that everything I was doing was to make sure that all the hard work and effort that we put into that company, each and every one of us, was not in vain."
Elsewhere, a newspaper ad tells the story of Matt Claus, who watched the Twin Towers fall on TV. "Then, still reeling, he raced to meet his colleagues at our backup tech facility in New Jersey. The one thing he could do, he felt, was to help save eSpeed, our global electronic marketplace and trading technology business..."
"They'd need months. They had a day and a half... No one went home. No one let up. When they needed rest, they napped on a cot. And they did it. Thursday morning, eSpeed reopened the U.S. Treasuries market a half-hour ahead of schedule. Our people have been tested. Our technology has been tested. And both are stronger than anyone could imagine."
right to invoke
If any company has the right to invoke 9/11-even exploit it for sympathy-it is Cantor. And it is beyond our reach to pass judgment. We can only muse. Why? Why run this campaign? Is it marketing, or catharsis? Inspiration or pathos?
Because these stories don't reflect corporate heroism or loyalty to the customer so much as they reflect the desperation of men and women who don't know how to bear up in the face of the unbearable, and throw themselves into, say, IT rescue because, Jesus, it's at least something to act on, a mechanism against abject powerlessness, better than curling up in the fetal position and wailing.
In other words: human nature, which-we suppose-it is only human nature to share.