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In the war room

The ad industry has risen to the call following the World Trade Center tragedy. Omnicom Group, for example, contributed $3 million to the Twin Towers fund for families of fire, police and emergency medical workers. But Adages also learned of two ad executives going an extra mile to help.

In the case of Peter Arnell, president-CEO of Omnicom's Arnell Group, he actually went just an extra few blocks, but those blocks are a world away from the ad industry. Peter lives and works in SoHo, just north of Ground Zero. He was in front of his home on West Broadway when he saw the first jet slam into the Trade Center. He rushed downtown. "On Tuesday I was at Con Edison and I spent most of Wednesday into the night, down at the [World Trade Center] site giving out water and food, and running firemen back to their homes."

Con Edison is an Arnell client. The war room, according to Peter, is at a secret location where the power company coordinates emergency services for the city. The agency also does work for the New York City Fire Department. Peter was made an honorary deputy fire commissioner this past summer. He was a close friend of many of the firemen who died when the towers collapsed. For Peter, it's personal.

"We haven't stopped working. It's been a tough past few days." When Adages last spoke to Peter he was arranging delivery of 2000 pairs of shoes from Rockport, another Arnell client, for rescuers and families of the fallen. "This is real stuff," said Peter. "The world will never be the same." His advice to others: "The best way our industry could chip in is get back to business."


Last Tuesday, a week after the terrorist attack, Mike Drexler, a top media executive at independent MediaSmith, felt compelled to do something more than just donate money to rescue efforts. He's taken a leave of absence and is now loading trucks for the Salvation Army. "First thing I did was give monetary donations," Mike said. "And I was going to work and it bothered me that I couldn't physically be there to help."

Mike applied to volunteer but no one got back to him. "They asked me for skills, and you're at a loss when you're a businessman. ... They had this long list, and I'm not a plumber, or an electrician, [or] a medical aide. I can't do any of that stuff." Frustrated, he stopped a police officer in Grand Central. "He said, `Just get your gear and go down there and they'll find something for you.' So that's what I did."

Mike went begging to help, from the World Trade Center to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and finally to the offices of the Salvation Army on 14th Street, where he now packs bags and loads trucks with supplies for the rescuers.

Before leaving his job, Mike explained his plans to his clients, who were understanding, and every day he calls and checks in with Mike Smith, the company's CEO. But otherwise this buttoned-down businessman with no special skill set is out on the streets in his jeans and his Salvation Army shirt breaking a sweat.

"I don't know when I'll come back because no one knows how long this will go on," Mike said. "I'm just going to stay with it until they don't need me anymore."

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