Editorial: This is no time for ad paralysis

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In times of conflict and extraordinary world events, paralysis breeds among marketers. It surfaced again as events in Iraq boiled toward a climax. Suspending advertising in the event of war, as some of the biggest marketers in the nation announced they would do last week, no doubt looks like the "safe" response to uncertainty. But it is hardly safe. It is no substitute for what marketers really need: a practical strategy for the days ahead that advances business needs and at the same time respects the public mood.

The opening hours of compelling events change "normal" consumer interests, of course. Few such events are more compelling than the commitment of American soldiers to a war. But such occurrences do not change the necessity for marketers to keep open the channels of communication with their customers. Events may require ad messages to change, but they also require messages to be communicated.

Even in extraordinary times, consumers are faced with decisions about what to buy and when to buy it. With the economy already troubled and uncertain, marketers more than ever need to get offers into the marketplace that communicate not only value but also confidence in the future. As General Motors Corp. found with its "Keep America Rolling" campaign after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, consumers will respond when the offer and the message are smartly crafted.

Any advertising shutdown should be the briefest possible. Media will need to find ways to accommodate marketers who wish to keep their ads separate from the most serious international news.

As events unfold, those ultimately in charge of advertising dollars need to get rid of the notion that advertising is an unwanted voice. Don't apologize for what you do. Advertising is about jobs and economic growth as well as selling product. And there is no disrespect for the U.S. public when it's done right.

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