Global implications

By Published on .

Ad campaigns were pulled around the globe last week as a horrified worldwide ad community scrambled to react. Some U.S. marketers, meanwhile, are considering lowering their profile overseas.

In Germany, Gruner & Jahr's flagship magazine Stern yanked a campaign to promote its news coverage that made reference to Osama bin Laden bombing a U.S. embassy. The ad ran in several Gruner & Jahr titles, and was scheduled to run in Der Spiegel and other magazines this fall.

The ad, from Leagas Delaney, Frankfurt, showed a white van parked outside an American embassy. In a play on the word "bin," German for "I am," the ad featured speech bubbles reading "Bin in the Botschaft" ("I'm in the Embassy"), "Bin gleich zuruck" ("I'm back soon") and "Bin Laden?"

"It was a way to make a point about this terrible guy," said Stefan Zschaler, Leagas De-laney's managing director in Frankfurt. "Now it's inappropriate."

European aircraft consortium Airbus pulled part of a $6 million global branding campaign, including a spot that opens in the earth's core and travels through the floors of a crowded skycraper to emerge into calm skies with the tagline "Airbus: Travel in Peace." The agency is Havas Advertising's Euro RSCG Corporate, Paris.

Reverberations from the terrorist attacks in the U.S. were felt as far away as Asia. "Quite a number of our clients have asked us to replace ads they have running at the moment with pro bono ads," said Takafumi Hotta, a spokesman for Japanese agency Dentsu, Tokyo. Commercials for Japanese airline JAL are among those that have been pulled, he said.

"An instant noodle company has also asked us to replace their TV commercial featuring an airplane with another version as soon as possible," the spokesman added. "Many other advertisers have also asked us to pull noisy, flashy ads and instead run more low-key versions in their place, especially around news programs."

Airline ads vanished virtually overnight. Peter Brack, publisher of Asiaweek, an AOL Time Warner magazine based in Hong Kong, said the magazine "pulled all airline ads immediately." Cathay Pacific Airways canceled all advertising at least until the end of September, said Vince Viola, a Hong Kong-based worldwide account director at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, owned by Interpublic Group of Cos. British Airways also canceled advertising.

Given the scale of the destruction faced by financial services companies in Manhattan, advertising for financial services and telecommunications also face minor postponements, said Mike Cooper, Asia CEO of Omnicom Group's OMD, Hong Kong.

Advertisers and their agencies scoured their schedules for images that might seem insensitive in the wake of the tragedy. In the U.K., Renault and Publicis, part of Publicis Groupe, pulled a spot for the Megane Scenic that featured pilots and flight attendants. Unilever dropped a Persil detergent ad from WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson in which a child talks about wanting to be a pilot.

After terrorist acts in the past, U.S. companies have lowered their profiles abroad. American Express Co., whose employees were evacuated from its global headquarters next to the World Trade Center last week, is cutting all marketing activity deemed "insensitive or inappropriate," a spokeswoman said. The company's Global Advertising Group, which usually meets in New York, reacted quickly. The new policy will be applied globally, although it will affect individual countries or regions differently, said London-based spokeswoman Jackie Goozee. AmEx advertising, handled globally by WPP's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, tends to be product-led, so the impact on campaigns will vary.

"Obviously, ads relating to the U.S. or travel to the U.S. will be pulled," she said.

The uncertainty of last week also wreaked havoc on schedules. Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe was debating last week whether to go ahead and shoot an international commercial in a couple weeks as scheduled.

"Everyone is completely freaked over here," said Tim Delaney, creative director of London-based Leagas Delaney. He said his luxury watchmaker client is going to wait and see how the economy is impacted before either committing to or canceling the shoot.

Fewer commercials ran last week as TV networks around the world extended news coverage. In Brazil, phone companies Embratel and Intelig created a toll-free number to allow people to contact friends and relatives in the U.S. Typical of the outpouring of sympathy for America was an editorial in French newspaper Le Monde that said, "We are all Americans."

"It's as though it's happening in our country, to us," echoed one U.K. marketing director.

Contributing: Suzanne Bidlake and Bill Britt, London; Normandy Madden, Hong Kong; and Claudia Penteado, Rio de Janeiro

In this article:
Most Popular