Several agencies are becoming
known as specialists in a new kind of advertising, producing
a variety of work seeking to reflect the changed national
reality after Sept. 11.
Some agencies are producing public service campaigns,
some are producing campaigns for paying clients and some are
commissioning surveys and studies to assess the changes in
consumer attitudes and behavior since the terrorist attacks.
Some of the work is serious, some is humorous; some of the
ads speak like a cheerleader, others like a sage.
Executives of the agencies involved say they
are aware of the fine line in circumstances like these between
opportunity and opportunism, between rising to a challenge
and leaping to cash in. They describe their efforts, which
they compare to crisis communications for companies in distress,
as necessary to serve marketers required suddenly to reassess
all advertising messages.
"It has to be done in a delicate way,"
said Philip B. Dusenberry, chairman for the North American
operations of BBDO Worldwide in New York, part of the Omnicom
Group. "You have to strike the right note, the right
"It's important not to seem self- serving
or self-aggrandizing," he added. "We're just there
to help our clients."
BBDO has produced paid ads addressing the Sept.
11 aftermath for General Electric, the New York Stock Exchange
and Visa, as well as a pro bono campaign on behalf of Mayor
Rudolph W. Giuliani carrying the theme "The New York
miracle. Be a part of it," to promote tourism during
the holidays. That campaign, composed of six television commercials
featuring quintessential New York personalities like Woody
Allen and Yogi Berra engaged in unlikely pursuits, has been
widely praised for its humor and special effects.
"Making an emotional connection with consumers
is especially important now," said Steven Blamer, president
and chief executive at the New York office of Grey Worldwide,
part of the Grey Global Group. This week, his agency introduced
a 60-second commercial for the Postal Service, that organization's
first advertising since canceling all campaigns after the
anthrax scare. The spot uses the Carly Simon song "Let
the River Run" to portray postal workers in heroic fashion,
i.e., doing their jobs.
"It shows our employees doing what they
do every day, now in the face of adversity," said Larry
Speakes, advertising manager at the Postal Service.
The commercial is the initial work by Grey after
its parent, Grey Global, began posting last month on its Web
site (www.grey.com) a series of "white papers" related
to Sept. 11, and addressed to advertisers. The papers are
written by executives from Grey Global agencies around the
world that specialize in services like advertising, public
relations and interactive marketing.
"This assignment for the Postal Service
grew out of many things we talked about on the Web site,"
Mr. Blamer said, like advice from Steven Novick, vice chairman
and chief creative officer at Grey Global, to not "make
the product the hero" but rather focus on people; to
"watch the flag-waving"; and to avoid giving worried,
distracted consumers "an overproduced piece of advertising."
Simplicity and familiarity are the watchwords
for campaigns from the New York and Toronto offices of the
Wolf Group that encourage tourists to visit New York. The
New York office's campaign is sponsored to the tune of $40
million by the Empire State Development Corporation and the
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The television
spots reinterpret the development organization's famous "I
Love New York" campaign; in one scene, Mr. Giuliani and
Gov. George E. Pataki urge visitors to "come see New
York united in its finest hour."
The Toronto office's campaign, produced pro
bono, also revisits the "I Love New York" theme,
which becomes "Canada Loves New York" and encourages
Canadians to visit the city en masse the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec.
2 by taking advantage of special lower prices on plane and
bus tickets and hotel rooms.
A print ad, showing the Statue of Liberty clad
in the Canadian flag, declares, "There will never be
a more inexpensive time to visit New York." A commercial,
shown on television and in movie theaters, features Canadian
celebrities known to Americans like Dan Aykroyd, Kim
Cattrall, Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Jason Priestley, William
Shatner and Alex Trebek making remarks like "I'm
Canadian and I love New York" and "J'adore New York";
the prime minister, Jean Chrétien, even appears, saying,
"Canada, show your support."
Large Canadian media companies including Bell
GlobeMedia, CanWest Global Communications, Rogers Communications
and the Torstar Media Group are donating an estimated 3 million
to 5 million Canadian dollars worth of commercial time and
ad space to run the campaign.
"The Canadian work was inspired by the
New York work," said Larry Wolf, chairman and chief executive
at Wolf Group, who is Canadian and based in Toronto. "What
we tried to do is capture the spirit of `I Love New York'
from a Canadian perspective."
"It's important to get life back to what
it was," he added, "or else the bad guys somehow
Another agency that has produced work related
to the new reality is McCann-Erickson Worldwide Advertising,
part of the McCann-Erickson World Group division of the Interpublic
Group of Companies.
One commercial by the agency's New York office,
produced pro bono for the Advertising Council, features Laura
Bush, the first lady, asking Americans to take time to talk
to their children about the events of September 11. That office
also created a public service spot for a new organization
named the Live Brave Coalition, in partnership with the council,
urging Americans to "simply live" and resume normal
Because one characteristic American activity
is shopping, the McCann office in Troy, Mich., produced the
"Keep America Rolling" campaign for the General
Motors Corporation, promoting zero percent financing on cars
and trucks. That campaign is being credited with helping stimulate
vehicle sales despite fears that uncertainty about the economy
would keep consumers from buying big-ticket items.
Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, part of the
Publicis Groupe, has also been busy in this realm, producing
pro bono print ads ranging from an appeal for donations to
organizations like the American Red Cross and the Heart of
America Foundation to an effort to waive the term-limits law
that prevented Mr. Giuliani for running for a third term.
The agency also distributed pins created by the foundation,
being sold in Hallmark stores to raise money for a Family
But Saatchi & Saatchi came in for considerable
ribbing back in its original headquarters city, London, for
an e-mail message sent by Kevin Roberts, chief executive,
on Sept. 12. The message described the agency's employees
as "passionate, competitive and restless" and as
"ideas people" who had "much to contribute"
after the attacks, and concluded "Nothing is impossible."
Stuart Elliott, The New York Times. November 14, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.