Marketers Toss Lifelines To Japan

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The 7.2 earthquake that devastated Japan last week sent temblors through business as well, paralyzing operations of advertisers and marketers and turning major multinationals into rescuers.

The quake that hit at 5:46 a.m. on Jan. 17 had its epicenter in Kobe, a city of 1.4 million, and sent Western agencies and marketers in the area scurrying to help employees.

One major employer suffering damage was Procter & Gamble Co., with 6,000 staffers in Japan, including 2,000 in the affected area.

P&G's technical center is on Rokko Island, a man-made island created in 1993 within Kobe's city limits. The island is linked to downtown Kobe by a bridge, which closed immediately after the quake but reopened by week's end for emergency use.

P&G chartered a boat to the island late in the week and evacuated 300 employees and their families, along with untold numbers of other citizens, to Osaka, where the company arranged for temporary accommodations. The boat also brought food, water and other supplies to the island, said a P&G spokesman.

The company also chartered a jet to fly evacuated staffers to Hong Kong or the U.S.

Another rescuer was McCann-Erickson Worldwide. The agency, employing 58 people in Osaka, dispatched carloads of supplies and teams to assess harm to staffers and their homes. A spokeswoman in

New York said all but one employee had been accounted for by Jan. 19.

Among the 300 people working at Dentsu's Kobe office, some staffers suffered injuries while the building suffered structural and ceiling damage, and utilities were cut off. For now, operations are being handled by the agency's Osaka office.

Some 26 employees of Daiko Advertising's Kobe office were reportedly injured.

Eli Lilly & Co., which employs 700 in Japan, with 250 in Kobe, suffered "fairly extensive damage," to the two floors it leases in an office building, said a company spokesman. "We have reached all but four of the 250 people we have in Kobe and so far we have no reports of serious injuries."

Texas Instruments, which operates a joint venture with Kobe Steel 30 miles north of the city, said its facility escaped structural damage and injuries to its 400 employees.

The plant, which produces four-and 16-megabyte dynamic random access memory chips has been shut down for "complete recalibration and repair to equipment," a spokesman said, adding, "We don't expect any product shortages to develop."

Kobe Steel, Sumitono Metals Industries and Nippon Steel stopped production while Mazda Motors, Nissan Motors, Toyota Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors and Honda Motor Co. will be forced to either cut back on production or find new costly delivery routes due to damaged rail links.

As marketers scrambled to deal with the earthquake, Japanese TV stations' programming was taken over by quake coverage and obituary listings.

On Jan. 18, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper devoted one-third of news pages to the disaster and English-language The Daily Yomiuri set aside 41/2 of its 12 pages for quake news. The electronic media suspended regular programming all week, but commercials ran as scheduled. Ironically, the major news sponsor was Nescafe, marketed by Nestle, a company whose Kobe operations were shuttered by the disaster.

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