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Roundtable on Advertising and the September 11th Disaster

On October 8th, I convened a Roundtable of academicians and advertising professionals to discuss the events of September 11, 2001. It was less than one month after the horrifying events had occurred and the day after President George W. Bush initiated bombing strikes in Afghanistan. Three academicians (each of them a critic of capitalism and its excesses) sat face to face with three top advertising industry leaders in New York City. A former academician who had also worked in the advertising industry moderated the group.

I asked the group to discuss three questions:

1. How have the events of September 11th affected the content of advertising?

2. How will the events of September 11th affect the American and global economies, and how will the advertising industry respond to these changes?

3. How are we to understand the significance of the events of September 11th?

These are broad questions, and I expected broad answers. I also expected that the perspectives of advertising professionals and academics would differ markedly, although that proved not always to be the case.

What follows is a provocative discussion at times guardedly optimistic, more often worrying. The perspectives of the participants help frame and interpret the tragic events of September 11th. It is therefore timely and of immediate concern. But their discussion can also stand as a record for retrospective analyses of how scholars and the advertising industry attempted to cope with the immediate aftermath of these cataclysmic events.

William M. O'Barr