After 9/11: Ad Council readies major brand effort

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More than six months after Sept. 11, the Advertising Council is nearing completion of a major public service campaign reminding Americans of the freedoms under attack.

Drafts of creative concepts were under review last month with the hope that the ads could air by late spring, according to Ad Council officials. Some creative is expected to feature President George W. Bush, and unlike most Ad Council campaigns, the effort will list the council as its sole sponsor.

The campaign, described as a branding message, is being produced by creatives from eight agencies. It follows a series of targeted individual messages that included an "I am an American" spot put together by Omnicom Group's GSD&M, Austin, Texas; an ad from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, featuring first lady Laura Bush urging people to talk to their children; and a "Thanks for giving" spot featuring President and Mrs. Bush from Interpublic PR agency Golin Harris International, Washington.

In March, Attorney General John Ashcroft joined Ed McMahon to unveil a campaign from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, for the National Crime Prevention Council urging Americans to join the Citizens Corps program.

There's a lot riding on the coming campaign, which the Ad Council expects to point to as the one with lasting significance. Developed over the past months in the wake of the attacks, the war, anthrax letters and other issues, the campaign aims to take the next step.

"What we hope to do is first and foremost to get people thinking about how precious freedom is and the value of it to this country and that they can't take it for granted," said Phil Dusenberry, chairman of Omnicom Group's BBDO North America, New York, and chief creative officer for the Ad Council's Freedom Campaign effort. "The notion of freedom and feelings that were so strong after 9/11 have to be rekindled."

Long view

Said Michael Sennott, a consultant at Interpublic and director of strategic response for the Freedom Campaign: "We have set up a strategy to be long term."

Peggy Conlon, Ad Council president-CEO, said the campaign is aimed at making clear what the war on terrorism is about. "What it really talks about is highlighting our freedom and inspiring the American people to remember what makes the country unique."

How long the campaign will run remains uncertain. "There is a great need for some new work," said O. Burtch Drake, president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, whose members are the backbone of the Ad Council's work, "but how long the campaign will run is anyone's guess."

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