Advertisers mark 9-11 with low-key approach

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As the nation prepares to recognize the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, business marketers are taking a decidedly low-key approach to advertising on that day.

A BtoB online poll found that 48% of marketers had no specific plans with regard to marketing on Sept. 11; 28% planned to suspend advertising for the day; 15% said they would commemorate the day with a workplace event only; and 9% planned to commemorate the day with special marketing messages. (See chart on Page 8.)

While many consumer advertisers, including General Motors Corp., Coca-Cola Co., Target Corp. and Sears Roebuck & Co., have announced plans not to advertise on Sept. 11, announcements by b-to-b advertisers have not been as prominent.

Staples Inc., which markets to both businesses and consumers, said it was not planning to run any advertising on Sept. 11.

"We are pretty much laying low. We are not engaging in any overt marketing on Sept. 11," said Deborah Hohler, a Staples spokeswoman.

Holding off from advertising

Bill Wreaks, managing director of KDM, a unit of Doremus Advertising, New York, said, "By and large, our clients are holding off from advertising during the days surrounding Sept. 11."

Many of Doremus’ clients are financial companies, which had many employees in the immediate area of the attacks.

"The financial advertising community has been affected in ways unlike any other sector," Wreaks said.

"This first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks makes this question of advertising—or not—more sensitive than it ever will be."

Wreaks, who is also VP of the Financial Communications Society in New York, added, "The last thing advertisers want to do is to appear opportunistic."

The Direct Marketing Association urged its members to refrain from unsolicited e-mail and telephone marketing campaigns, or to conduct them with the "utmost caution and respect."

Al DiGuido, CEO of e-mail marketing firm Bigfoot Interactive, said he was not aware of any advertisers in the network that had decided to halt e-mail marketing on Sept. 11. "For most, it will be business as usual," he said.

However, DiGuido added, "We have been advising our clients not to merchandise around it and to be sensitive about the messaging they deliver." He said most of Bigfoot’s advertisers will have some kind of message that mentions Sept. 11 and the remembrance of the date.

Some b-to-b advertisers are running commemorative ads, honoring victims and conveying a message of hope.

For example, a print ad for AK Steel, Middletown, Ohio, has copy reading, "In the past year, we discovered something even stronger than steel. It’s the American spirit."

"We are advising clients to exercise an appropriate degree of tastefulness, and to be mindful of the emotionalism and sensitivity around the date," said Rick Segal, chairman-CEO of HSR Business to Business Inc., which developed the ad for AK Steel.

Segal said a few of the agency’s clients made decisions to postpone ad campaigns, particularly for announcements and new product launches, until after Sept. 11.

"This is not a period to roll out new messages or try to break through the clutter," Segal said, particularly for PR efforts. "The news hole is going to be entirely occupied by 9-11."

Commemorative programs

Some major b-to-b advertisers have agreed to underwrite commemorative programs focused on Sept. 11.

Nextel Communications Inc. said it would underwrite CBS’ broadcast of "9/11" on Sept. 11, and Boeing Co. agreed to underwrite NBC’s broadcast of "Concert for America."

Other organizations are planning other types of events and programs to commemorate the date. will showcase ads that were created by agencies from around the world in the weeks following the attacks, under an initiative called Advertising Community Together, a joint effort of, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.

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