Marketing World Grapples With Paris Tragedy

Marketers, Agency Execs Turn To Facebook Twitter; Media Scrambles

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The advertising and marketing industry around the world took to social media to express sorrow, offer assistance, and guard sensitivities over the attacks in Paris on Friday.

Credit: Jean Jullien via Twitter

As the Eiffel Tower peace sign mashup created by French illustrator Jean Jullien quickly went viral, agencies also chimed in. Havas turned the H in its logo into a French flag and created a hashtag #havastogether. The company said it would observe a moment of silence at noon Paris time on Monday in rememberance of the victims.

Company execs in other markets, such as Paul Frampton, CEO of Havas media group U.K., tweeted their condolences. At press time, there were three agency execs among the dead.

Credit: Paul Frampton via Twitter

The red, white and blue colors of the French flag overtook Facebook as the social media giant offered a filter for users to put on their profiles. Facebook also made available its Safety Check, which allows users and others to mark themselves safe in the wake of a disaster. The company took some heat for activating its system for the Paris attacks but not for a deadly bombing in Beirut.

A continent away from Europe, marketers from Amazon to Starbucks showed support. Both companies' home pages showed the French flag with one word: "Solidarite." Gap Inc. was more general, tweeting "Our thoughts and hearts are with all of the people impacted by the recent tragedies."

Amazon's homepage was reconfigured over the weekend to stand in solidarity against the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.
Amazon's homepage was reconfigured over the weekend to stand in solidarity against the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. Credit: Amazon

Magazines turned over their home pages to French imagery like Vogue, while WWD turned its logo into the colors of the French flag.

Vogue's homepage was among media brands standing in solidarity with France in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.
Vogue's homepage was among media brands standing in solidarity with France in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. Credit: Conde Nast

TV, particularly cable, acted swiftly not just in coverage but in tribute. On "Saturday Night Live" the evening after the attacks, cast member Cecily Strong opened the show by delivering a message first in English and then in French: "Paris is the city of lights. And here in New York City, we know that the light will never go out. Our love and support is with everyone there tonight. We stand with you."

Credit: Saturday Night Live/NBCUniversal

On Saturday night, CBS led into its presentation of the Democratic presidential debate with a live, one-hour update, "48 Hours: Paris Under Attack," and put great emphasis during the debate on questions dealing with national security and foreign policy.

CBS is also swapping episodes of this week's "Supergirl" and "NCIS: LA" in the wake of the attacks. The episodes that were slated to air both had plot lines that involve terrorism.

But broadcast TV did not try to match the cable news networks' wall-to-wall coverage. Friday night's prime-time broadcast lineup ran largely unaltered, as the Big Four nets aired their usual blend of low-rated comedies, dramas and reality shows. NBC responded to the crisis by pulling the scheduled live episode of its 8 p.m. comedy "Undateable," dedicating the first few minutes of the time slot for an update from the news division before throwing to a repeat. As scheduled, original installments of "Truth Be Told" and "Grimm" followed before NBC pulled its slotted 10 p.m. "Dateline" for an hour-long special focused on the events in Paris.

ABC's 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. roster aired without interruption, although as NBC did with its late-prime news program, the network yanked its prepared edition of "20/20" for a special report ("Paris Under Attack"). As if there were any doubt that Americans have been conditioned to turn to cable news when a major story breaks, the ratings for NBC and ABC's 10 p.m. news specials were down compared to the previous week. The CBS and Fox lineups were indistinguishable from any other Friday night.

CNN flooded the zone with reporters from its Paris and London bureaus, breaking into its regular afternoon schedule shortly before 4:30 p.m. EST on Friday. At MSNBC, former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams rode herd on the biggest news story since he returned to the airwaves back in September, while Fox News Channel's coverage was steered by Shepard Smith. Fox New Channel's ongoing coverage of the attacks was augmented with footage shot by its corporate sibling Sky News.

The cable networks remained locked in on Paris throughout the weekend, and broadcasters followed up with a number of special reports. During Saturday's Wake Forest-Notre Dame broadcast, NBC scrapped its standard scores-and-highlights halftime package for a report from "Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt.

Speaking of the debate, CNN on Saturday reported that an aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders "threw a fit" when the campaign was informed of an eleventh-hour decision to shave the candidates' opening statements down by a minute in order to accommodate a single question about Paris.

The National Football League on Sunday afternoon offered a similar, albeit wordless, gesture, as each of the eight home teams observed a moment of silence immediately before the playing of the National Anthem. Fans from Washington to St. Louis waved French flags in the stands, and in Baltimore, Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox ran out onto the field waving the Tricolore.

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