By Published on .

The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, left marketers on both sides of the Atlantic scrambling last week to pull ad campaigns.

In the U.K., alcoholic beverage and car marketers, including Mercedes-Benz, pulled or modified ads after reports that the princess, riding in a Mercedes, had been killed in a crash with a purportedly drunken driver at the wheel.

"Mercedes-Benz people in England are quite shocked and just want to show a sign of respect," said Birgit Zaiser, cars press officer at Mercedes headquarters in Stuttgart. The U.K. is the only country where the ads, from Partners BBDH, London, were pulled.


British TV networks issued edicts saying they wouldn't run commercials for cars featuring speed or screeching tires, and ads for health and car insurance also were pulled. Broadcasters asked alcoholic beverage brands to shift ads at least 1 hour away from the news or programs featuring coverage of the late princess.

Citing sensitivities, advertisers also halted a new campaign for Volkswagen; a spot for financial services company Allied Dunbar that featured the Grim Reaper; an ad for J.N. Nichols' carbonated drink Vimto, judged to be "just too happy"; a Renault Clio commercial featuring couples on illicit romantic trips in France; and Eurostar's radio ads for trips to Paris.

Cadbury U.K. also stalled ads for its candy that use the theme line, "The nation's favorite," a term used to describe the princess.

In the U.S., H.J. Heinz Co.'s Weight Watchers International, responding to reports that pursuing paparrazi had caused the wreck, rushed to pull an estimated $20 million to $25 million campaign for a new weight-loss program that featured Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.


TV advertising was halted immediately, though it was too late to stop direct mail and print ads in Glamour and Self that showed Fergie with the headline, "Dieting is harder than outrunning paparrazi." Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, is the agency.

The delay was a blow to the new Weight Watchers 1, 2, 3 Success diet, said to be one of the biggest launches in Heinz history.

Reaction also was swift at Wendy's International, which pulled a spot from Bates USA, New York, showing a character similar to the Queen of England.

Advertisers in Europe weren't withdrawing from the tabloids, however, but reserved that right if coverage wasn't responsible.

Bild, published by Axel Springer Verlag of Hamburg, printed 6.8 million copies of its Sept. 1 edition that carried the first photos of the crash, some 1.2 million more than its pressrun of the previous Friday.


In the U.S., Kroger Co.'s Michigan region issued a statement saying it would not display any tabloids with such photos.

Ironically, the outcry over the tabloid industry's purported role in Diana's death didn't stop U.K. readers from buying the papers, whose circulation was up an estimated 25% to 30% as they splashed photos of Princess Diana over most pages.

The Sun, the U.K.'s biggest selling daily newspaper, published by Rupert Murdoch's News International, was reported by The Financial Times to have sold more than 1 million extra copies Sept. 1. Contributing: Louise Kramer, Jean

Most Popular
In this article: