Video conferencing rises as some aren't ready to fly

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After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington last week, Cindy Gallop was determined to get back on a plane. But the president of Bcom3 Group-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, in Los Angeles on business when the attacks occurred, did make one concession to the suddenly tense atmosphere on the return flight later that week.

"I took my cell phone out of my bag and slipped it in my jacket pocket," Ms. Gallop said. "I guess I just wanted it to be available should I need it."

Travel is of great concern to the marketing community, where pitches, company meetings and "face time" with clients often involve plane trips from city to city. Many agencies, including Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide, Boston, have told employees airline travel is a personal decision, and they would not be penalized if they didn't feel comfortable flying to clients or for other work-related business.

Bcom3's Leo Burnett USA, which handles Delta Air Lines, has limited travel to "client critical business" for the near term, and is otherwise leaving the decision to staff. CEO Linda Wolf sent a memo to staff assuring them air travel will become easier in the coming weeks, but staffers' decisions on travel "will not be questioned." A Burnett spokeswoman echoed the thoughts of many in the industry when she said use of video conferencing has increased.

"Even before the attacks happened, we were already improving our technology to enhance video conferencing and streaming," said Chuck Porter, CEO MDC Communications-backed Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami. "The economy demands it."

"We're taking the lead from our clients on [more teleconferencing]," said Bob Scarpelli, chairman of Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Chicago. "It's a fact of life we get on airplanes a lot. But we have a great video conference facility and room that has been underutilized in the past, and now we hope it won't be."

"There's going to be some effect [on travel]," said Cliff Freeman, president of Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York. "How much is short term, how much is long term will sort itself out."

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