By Published on .

More electronic gadgetry at government buildings. More business for home and business security firms. A heightened feeling that you can't let your guard down-anywhere.

This is America, post-Oklahoma City, the way the marketing community sees it.

Interviews by more than a dozen Advertising Age staffers and correspondents make it abundantly clear that post-Oklahoma City America will be a different country.

"What happens in New York doesn't necessarily apply to the rest of the world, it's an island unto itself," said Barbara Beyer, referring to the World Trade Center bombing. The president of Avmark Consulting, an airline consultancy, went on to say: "But what happens in Oklahoma certainly applies to the rest of the U.S."

For many, the need for increased security was obvious.

"The thing that's so scary is that Americans don't know [anything] about security and they're such novices at it," said Rich Herstek, creative director at Houston Effler Herstek Favat, Boston. ".... We're just sitting ducks."

"I think it'll change the sense of security that most Americans have treasured and been privileged to have for so long," said Jay Chiat, managing director of Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif. ".... I think it will have an amazing emotional impact on every person .... No one who works or is living in a city can be certain of their personal safety or the safety of their family."

"Collectively, there's no question that it changes the way people think," said Jack Balousek, president-chief operating officer at Foote, Cone & Belding North America, San Francisco. "We think about it when we walk into an airplane, a post office and now into a federal building."

But without going on a witch hunt, the country can "increase security checks and [background checks] of those entering our country," said Marilyn Glass, who worked in Israel for five years and is a past president of the Philadelphia Art Directors Club. "Start keeping a closer watch on groups with known terrorist affiliations.... I don't think this is paranoia. There have been two major bombings and we haven't seen the end of it."

On a more personal note, the terrorist attack could add fuel to consumers' desire to protect themselves in ways that are currently available.

"As people become more aware of fanatics out there, it brings to light the importance of security in today's day and age," said Bob Ensinger, media relations specialist with the Security Industry Association in Washington.

"We've been in a period that the perception of threat has been in a heightened state. This can only raise it higher," said John Galante, the association's executive director.

The $64 billion security industry is likely to experience a jump from the event, most likely for companies that serve the commercial and industrial market, he said.

"It is only going to heighten the perception of threat in the workplace," Mr. Galante said. "Employees and customers want those changes. They want to feel safer."

The second reaction by corporations will be for marketers to experience increased sales resulting from public fear. Though few products will aid against terrorism, blatant pitches that exploit consumers' fears are certain to follow as some marketers seek a competitive advantage, said Mayer Nudell, a security consultant and executive director of the International Association of Counter-Terrorism and Security Professionals in Arlington, Va. But corporations beware: If safety measures fail, the backlash could be worse than having done nothing at all.

Such was the case with Pan American World Airways, which in the 1980s launched "Alert," a security program intended to make passengers feel more safe, said Mr. Nudell. The airline claimed to boost security on international flights and even charged a fee on each ticket sold. But when a Pan Am jet was blown from the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, by terrorists, so, too, was the airline's impression of safety.

"It turned out it was all cosmetic. Instead of really trying to do a good job with security, they tried to gain a competitive advantage," he said. "To my way of thinking, that's worse than doing nothing at all."

Most Popular
In this article: