Because few national marketers want to advertise this Sept. 11, national TV programmers stand to lose some $50 million to $60 million in advertising, according to media agency executives. But despite the first anniversary jitters, few changes concerning the business of selling and buying TV time have occurred since the events of last Sept. 11.
Except, notably, agency executives' willingness to sound a strong note of praise for TV sellers' quick work last year in shifting nearly $400 million in commercial time canceled during the national TV programmers' five days of all-news programming following the Sept. 11 attacks.
rising to occasion
"There are times when the networks rise to the occasion and show their worth as organizations," said Marc Goldstein, president-CEO of WPP Group's MindShare North America, New York. "Last year was one of those examples."
"We have found the media was extremely flexible in accommodating clients' needs," said William A. Koenigsburg, president, Horizon Media, New York. Last year, TV sellers worked diligently to re-book all media time lost during the five-day period later in the fourth quarter or into the first part of the year.
National advertisers and TV programmers have always responded to major TV news events. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 forced advertisers off the air for three days while broadcast news programming took over. In the `80s when the tampering of Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol caused some deaths, TV networks responded quickly in pulling Tylenol ads-and then in providing J&J with new TV commercial time to publicly address the scare. And networks have had a long-standing rule to pull airline ads immediately following any crash. "When you have these crisis situations, I think we respond pretty well," said Jon Nesvig, president-advertising sales, News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting Co.
Of those marketers who will be on the air this year, networks have provided special venues to highlight corporate branding messages. Nextel will underwrite a commercial-free rebroadcast of the documentary "9/11" on CBS. Boeing Co. will underwrite NBC's "Concert for America."
"This is not the first time that advertisers had to make decisions about events or programs," said Tim Spengler, exec VP-national broadcast, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative Media, New York. "This is a very personal decision; this is a polarizing issue."