Agencies more sensitive with their ad pitches

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Business may be getting back to usual in the post-Sept. 11 environment, but ad agencies pitching for accounts say they are making subtle changes in the ways they approach new business.

These changes are generally strategic, such as re-evaluating positioning and communications messages during creative pitches.

"We are re-examining our communications strategies to ensure we are sensitive to people’s new view of the world," said Lou Rubin, chief marketing officer of Doremus & Co., the b-to-b agency within the Omnicom Group, New York.

For example, the agency is not using humor as aggressively in campaigns, Rubin said, and is focusing more on the core values of business.

"Trying to find the right emotional message is something we think about even more," he said. "We are being very sensitive to people’s psychologies about everything—why they do business, and who they should be doing business with."

Logistics unaffected

The attacks have not had a serious impact on the logistics of pitching business, Rubin said. Doremus has to build in more travel time as a result of new procedures in place at airports, but employees are still traveling as much as they did before the attacks.

For example, Doremus is now pitching for the b-to-b business of Bank of America Corp., Charlotte, N.C., and nothing has changed with regard to travel or business processes, Rubin said.

"We have to get back to commerce," he said.

The account perspective

On the account side, businesses and organizations say that unless the goal of the campaign has changed, they don’t expect agencies to approach the new business process differently than they did before Sept. 11.

For example, the U.S. Department of Defense was in the middle of an agency review for its $20 million Joint Recruiting account at the time of the attack on the Pentagon and had to reschedule meetings with the finalists: incumbent Bates Worldwide, New York; Foote, Cone & Belding, New York; J. Walter Thompson, Atlanta; D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York; and Mullen, a Wenham, Mass.-based agency that is part of Interpublic Group of Cos.

Major Jim Cassella, press officer for the Defense Department, said that aside from the rescheduling of meetings, "I don’t know if the attack has had an impact one way or another." He said the goal of the campaign is to recruit personnel for the department, and that goal remains the same.

As for the agencies involved, Cassella said, "The techniques they use may change, based on their research. There is a surge of patriotism, and that may change the way they present."

Agencies involved in the pitch would not comment on their proposals.

Mark Rogan, exec VP-creative director at Stein Rogan & Partners, New York, said the agency was on its way to a meeting to pitch for additional business at The New York Times Co. when the media company had an anthrax scare and the building was evacuated. The meeting was rescheduled for the next day.

Stein Rogan is sending fewer people to long-distance pitches, but Rogan said that is more a result of economics than the effects of the terrorist attacks.

"We plan to follow the president’s and the mayor’s message: Business as usual, or they win," Rogan said.

Another agency executive, Michelle Hush, VP-new business communications at Grey Worldwide, New York, said all the reviews the agency was involved with around Sept. 11 got pushed back, but "one by one" they are all coming back together.

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