Multinationals Pouring Earthquake Aid Into Japan

By Published on .

A flood has followed the earthquake in Japan.

It's a flood of millions of dollars in donated supplies and money, wrapped in moral support and dispatched to devastated Kobe by multinational marketers based in the U.S. and abroad.

Northwest Airlines and non-profit AmeriCares, New Canaan, Conn., joined forces to coordinate two plane-loads of supplies in a span of five days, stocked to the ceilings with nearly 400,000 pounds of goodsdonated by 21 companies. The two planes arrived in Japan with everything from soup (courtesy of Campbell Soup Co.) to nuts (Sun Diamond Growers of California).

Northwest also delivered clothing (Lands' End and Maidenform), batteries (Duracell International), toiletries (Chesebrough-Pond's USA), bandages (Johnson & Johnson), medical supplies (American Medical Devices) and even prefabricated buildings (Sprung Instant Structures).

Back home, Northwest drummed up support during ABC's Jan. 29 broadcast of Super Bowl XXIX by purchasing, at a "substantial discount," four 13-second spots asking consumers for relief donations. The ads highlighted a 1-800-486-HELP phone number.

The carrier's AirCares Program and AmeriCares also publicized that phone number in an ad that kicked off Jan. 25 in donated space in USA Today and Northwest's hometown papers, the Pioneer Press-Dispatch in St. Paul, Minn., and Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Kansas City, Mo., agency VML created the advertising on a pro bono basis.

At Procter & Gamble Co., Chairman-CEO Edwin L. Artzt said his company will spend $50 million in the aftermath of the quake, 60% on repairing and cleaning its residential and technical facilities.

Mr. Artzt said he expects a damaged plant near Kobe to be fully operational by the end of February and its headquarters and technical center to be fully restored within three months.

Marketers donating money through relief organizations-including the American Red Cross, which had amassed $1 million early last week-included Toyota Motor Co., Chevron and AT&T.

The corporate donors are spending next to nothing on earthquake-related marketing, instead limiting public awareness campaigns to press releases.

"In a situation like that, people aren't even thinking about marketing," said Jessica Gonzalez Joseph, Campbell manager of state and local relations. "The response is purely humanitarian."

The Jan. 17 quake that has cost more than 5,000 lives is having a profound effect on Japanese media.

Ad time valued at $12 million has been lost. Not only were TV spots canceled because of continuous earthquake coverage, but advertisers voluntarily pulled commercials that seemed too frivolous and happy for a country in mourning.

The cancellations have cost Dentsu, Tokyo, alone $3 million in the two weeks since the quake.

"This is a solemn period for the Japanese," said Hideaki Ichimura, a staffer at the self-regulatory Japanese Advertising Review Organization. "Certain types of commercials-ones with lots of laughing, lively music, or ads that tell people how easy it is to go out and buy X product-are not appropriate at this time."

To fill time left empty by canceled TV spots, stations are running non-quake-related public service announcements sponsored by the ad review group.

Some advertisers are blacking out buys in the Osaka area but leaving them intact in other cities. Others are expected to cancel ads since quake damage at some facilities is creating product shortages.

Beer and liquor marketers stopped advertising out of respect to employees and their families hurt or missing during the quake. "Running a beer TV spot would be an insult to the families," Mr. Ichimura said.

Still unsettled is who will pay for lost airtime-the advertiser, the agency or the media.

The quake's impact on the ad industry may outlast the withdrawal of TV spots, however.

"We've got a lot of people who have lost homes, living in shelters together in shortages, forced to be considerate of each other's needs," Koh Sakata, McCann-Erickson chief creative officer, said of the reported 300,000-plus Japanese left homeless. "This is going to change the mind-set of some consumers. Advertisers will have to think of new ways to touch the hearts of these people."

Most Popular
In this article: