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In an Uneasy Climate, Even Rivals Unite in Campaigns


"NITED we stand" can now be considered more than a patriotic exhortation. Increasingly, it is serving as a strategy for advertisers to attract the attention of consumers in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

A growing number of television commercials, print advertisements, posters and other pitches are being presented under the sponsorship of trade groups, industry associations and umbrella organizations some longstanding, others ad hoc efforts formed after Sept. 11.

The trend toward cooperation is evident from Madison Avenue, where agencies are working with a former top executive of Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide to produce campaigns under the aegis of the Advertising Council, to Wall Street, where 10 leading names in financial services joined forces for a newspaper ad declaring the country was "open for business," to Main Street, where airlines, insurance companies and tourist attractions are addressing customers together rather than separately.

One reason for the cooperative ads is that "pooling resources makes it seem like a bigger effort, like there's a lot of clout behind it," said Philip B. Dusenberry Jr., chairman for the North American operations of BBDO Worldwide in New York, part of the Omnicom Group.

"And it's more cost effective," he added, "because it's easier and cheaper to run one ad than for each one to run its own ad." That is an important consideration because of the weakening economy, which had seemed to be slipping into a recession even before the wrenching disruptions caused by the attacks.

Another reason for these ads is "that by doing it all together, it takes you out of the realm of people questioning if you're taking advantage of the situation or their feelings," said Alicia Kriese, senior vice president and group account director at GSD&M in Austin, Tex. Her agency, also owned by Omnicom, helped produce the financial services ad at the request of a client, the Charles Schwab Corporation, which GSD&M shares with BBDO. Other sponsors of the ad included American Express, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

"Most days," Ms. Kriese said, "I want to kick butts" at sibling agencies like BBDO, "but we came together as an Omnicom family" for the ad.

"Reaching out to others is what this is about," she added. "What unites you is a lot stronger than what divides you, and a lot of times we forget that."

Among those preaching that in union there is strength are the American Insurance Association, which represents more than 370 property and casualty companies; the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, with more than 100 drug makers as members; the League of American Theaters and Producers, representing the Broadway community; the Travel Industry Association of America; and the Empire State Development Corporation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which are spending $40 million on a coordinated "I H New York" campaign to urge business and leisure travelers to return to the city; and the Advertising Council.

The council named Michael Sennott yesterday to oversee what Peggy Conlon, president and chief executive, described as "a high-level team to develop the communication strategy that will inform all the messages we're creating" for public service campaigns related to the attacks. Mr. Sennott, 59, is the former deputy chairman at Lowe Lintas and has just retired as senior partner and vice chairman at the Lowe Lintas parent, the Partnership division of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

"It doesn't mean individual agencies can't make their own contributions," Ms. Conlon said, "but the council is taking the same umbrella position, the leadership position, as we did 60 years ago," when the council was founded, as the War Advertising Council, after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

A coordinated approach can help "make sure we're more proactive, more strategic," she added, "that the campaigns work together, that we're able to measure their impact over time."

There can be pluses and minuses to uniting for ads, according to Simon Williams, chief executive at the Sterling Group, a corporate identity and brand consulting company in New York.

On one hand, "it shows an industry to be proactive and it gives a sense of caring," Mr. Williams said. "Individually, a company may feel isolated and not take out ads on its own."

On the other hand, he added, such ads "can seem like bland messages from inanimate objects, industry cartels, because I as a consumer have a relationship with a brand rather than an association."

Another fault Mr. Williams said he finds is that "the ads do look atrocious, like they were created by one of the finest agencies in Teaneck, N.J."

Needless to say, the organizations running the ads do not agree with that assessment.

"Our companies were also doing things separately, but we wanted to convey a sense from an emotional perspective that this was different for us," said Julie Rochman, senior vice president at the American Insurance Institute in Washington, who served as the copywriter for a plain, all-text newspaper ad signed by the organization's board, the chief executives of 18 property and casualty insurance companies from ACE to the Zurich Financial Services Group.

"We wanted to say that as much as it rocked us personally," she added, referring to the attack on the World Trade Center, "we are part of the recovery effort, that this is what we do."

Christopher Molineaux, vice president in Washington for the pharmaceutical association, known as Pharma, said: "We have not done this before. The decision was based on the enormous outpouring of support our companies engaged in, upwards of $82 million in cash and untold amounts of product. We wanted to express to all Americans, as well as our member companies, that the pharmaceutical industry is supportive of the nation and individual families when they suffer loss."

In some instances, unity is meant to pervade all aspects of the ads. For example, a line in the script for a TV spot for the "I H New York" campaign, which read "Come see New York in its finest hour," was revised by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani to read "Come see New York united in its finest hour." The mayor will appear in the commercial, scheduled to begin running next Wednesday, along with Gov. George E. Pataki.

"If different groups want to run their own messages about their own particular industries, that's fine," said Mike Rogers, president and executive creative director at the New York office of the Wolf Group, the agency for the development corporation, "but people look to `I H New York' to carry the ball."

"Not to be out there with anything would be noticeable," he added.

Perhaps the most notable example of the lion - and "The Lion King" - lying down with the lamb is the campaign from the theater league, which carries the theme "I H New York Theater." It united the producers of 31 shows, who regularly compete against one another for ticket buyers; their press agents, who usually battle one another for column inches in newspapers; and two agencies that specialize in theatrical advertising, Serino Coyne and Spotco, regularly fierce rivals.

"I worked in advertising for 15 years, and you can work happily without ever working with your colleagues at other agencies," said Jed Bernstein, president of the theater league in New York. "You didn't need each other to get your business done."

"But on Broadway, the competitor today is the co-investor tomorrow," he added, "and the actor you lost the part to one month is on stage with you the next month."

 

By STUART ELLIOTT, The New York Times Company October 3, 2001

Copyright © 2001 The New York Times. All rights reserved.

 

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