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Transcript of online discussion with Priscilla Natkins, Executive Vice President, Campaign Management, Ad Council
Wednesday, November 14, 2001, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Eastern


<sharon> Hi Priscilla
<priscilla> Hi. Glad to be here.
<nchao> May we have a brief introduction or background of our guest speaker?
<priscilla> I'm an EVP at the Ad Council, and my primary responsibility is overseeing the development of all of our campaigns. Before I came here, I had extensive experience in account management. Currently, I am overseeing our traditional docket of issues, as well as all crisis related work.
<Sharon> So you must be busy now!
<priscilla> To say the least!
<Sharon> How many campaigns do you expect to have related to Sept. 11?
<priscilla> Since 9/ll, we've already developed about 6 new campaigns that have been released, including a spot from Laura Bush, about talking to kids during this stressful time. We also worked on the development of the spot "I am an American" which encourages tolerance and acceptance of all Americans. We are operating at warp speed here, and getting messages out as they are needed. Given how events are shifting on a daily basis, we have to be fairly nimble.
<Sharon> Do you have any way of measuring the effectiveness of the spots?
<priscilla> The particular challenge is getting timely messages out, without sacrificing creative integrity. And at this point, we can only measure if the spots are running in donated time, and hits to the web sites and 800 #s on the end of some of the spots .
<Sharon> How has the response from agencies/media been in donating their time and talent?
<priscilla> Extraordinary. We have an extensive list of agencies and individuals willing to work pro-bono on any crisis related work. Directors, production houses, editors, etc. are all donating their services. And, to date, the media has been very generous about running the work - radio, print and tv.
<Sharon> That's great!
<istole> Who decides on the particular themes used in this campaign?
<priscilla> We have been sought out (e.g. by government agencies and private not-for-profits ) on specific issues, and at the same time, we have assembled a team of senior advertising execs to help us sort through what messages we need to get out. So, we're being both proactive and responsive.
<Sharon> Do you have problems getting companies involved with other issues? I would think they all want to be involved with Sept. 11.
<priscilla> Well, that's an interesting question that we're grappling with on a daily basis. It's not as if the problem of childhood hunger has abated since 9/ll, or that domestic violence is no longer an issue. We're responsible for letting the media (and consumers) know that the pressing social issues of the day remain. And yes, there is a bit more interest in crisis related work.
<nchao> Do you keep an archive for all the events/campaigns you did, so students may learn from them?
<priscilla> All of our current campaigns can be found on our web site. I know we have archives internally, but I'm not sure if that data can be found on the site.
<istole> Have corporations shown an increased interest in the Advertising Council's work since 9/11?
<priscilla> Yes. Interestingly, we began as the War Advertising Council in 1942, formed five months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So we're definitely returning to our roots. Our corporate funders, who have always been supportive of us, have shown an increased appreciation of our efforts. The problem is, of course, that in this economy, they can't always demonstrate their appreciation in ways that help us! We rely strictly on private funds for our survival.
<shannon> Ordinarily I try to stay away from the materialistic aspect of things, but I've wondered recently if it's possible to buy print ads from agencies and/or the Ad Council? Would selling of ad posters and such help fund your org. in needed ways?
<priscilla> Yes it would. It's probably something we should consider.
<Sharon> Do you have a timeline of how long the Sept. 11 campaign will continue?
<priscilla> We anticipate that this will be a long term communications effort. A lot depends on how long the conflict continues. So much is unknown. But, we're prepared to develop messages as long as they're needed.
<aef_man> What other campaigns are you currently working on?
<Shannon> Specifically I have noticed that the "We love NY, more than ever" poster has been circulated to businesses, but not to the public. I know there were issues surrounding the logo, but it's the public that almost needs something to help them express their feelings of what has happened. The Ad Council wasn't responsible for that though, was it? But would it go along with the Ad Council's objectives to work on something like that to offer to the public?
<priscilla> Other than crisis work? Or specific crisis related messages?
<aef_man> Other than crisis work.
<priscilla> We're committed to our current docket, which covers topics as diverse as education, safety, health, parenting and community well being. About 80% of our regular docket is dedicated to helping kids. Shannon, in response to your question, no, we weren't involved in that effort. We tend to focus on specific social messages.
<istole> Many corporations have started to run their own 9/11 related ads. Several were seen in the New York Times Magazine this last Sunday. Are these individual efforts a problem for the Ad Council? Do these divert from the common /overall theme and effort?
<priscilla> In response to istole, we can't assume that we're going to run all crisis related work. I don't think it's a problem for us, but yes, it might be a little confusing to consumers, to see ads for 15-20 funds regarding the victims. All of them legitimate and well meaning, of course.

<xman007> Have advertising companies profits been hit extremely hard due to Sept. 11?
<priscilla> Before 9/ll, agencies were suffering, as were a lot of advertisers. This certainly hasn't helped.
<xman007> Should we expect a great deal more of patriotic ads from this present day and years down the line?
<priscilla> Yes, I anticipate that a lot of patriotic messages have yet to emerge. The country is ripe for them, and they have been reassuring.
<istole> What exactly (besides from the image of a flag) qualifies a a "patriotic message." How is the term defined?
<priscilla> Any message that salutes the importance and pride in being an American, and celebrates the principles on which we were founded. Freedom, democracy, etc.
<priscilla> That's my definition, anyway.
<xman007> Do you think these American patriotic ads will lead us to more global patriotic ad themes for perhaps the next decade?
<priscilla> That's dangerous. When you extend beyond our borders, it borders on propaganda.
<Sharon> I've read that there is a new 'committee' formed to deal with this conflict. How will that work with the Ad Council?
<priscilla> We are members of that committee (meeting as we speak, as a matter of fact). We decide together what messages we should embrace.
<Shannon> In terms of global, though, would the Ad Council work with any "love of mankind, despite differences" type theme?
<priscilla> But, note that even as we take on these messages, we are NOT walking away from our core messages, as noted earlier.
<aef_man> To what extent do you think the advertising industry will use September 11th as part of their campaigns before it withdraws and says enough. After all, many people find this constant reminder of these horrific events badgering and psychologically damaging.
<Shannon> What other orgs are members of the committee to deal with this conflict?
<priscilla> Paid advertisers have to tread lightly, and not appear to exploit people's emotions at this time. So, they need to stay on top of, via research, what consumers are feeling. Shannon, we're working with other industry trade groups (like the 4As).
<nchao> What's the border line of propaganda and war time campaign in your view?
<priscilla> Hard to say. I think it's subjective.
<xman007> Do you think airline ads at this time would do more harm than good?
<priscilla> No, I don't think airlines should hide their heads in the sand. I (and this is a personal opinion) feel that we need to support the airline industry - they're victims too. And for that reason, they should stay out there in the minds of consumers, as consumers get over (slowly) their fears about flying.
<xman007> Do you think advertisers are gearing up for a dramatic shift away from in advertising that includes any type of violence?
<priscilla> Advertisers are certainly shying away from violent images or messages, as is appropriate.
<moderator> Thank you Priscilla and all of our participants for joining us. A transcript of this discussion will be posted tomorrow.
<priscilla> My pleasure!

<moderator> Thanks again everyone. Stay tuned to aef.com for more upcoming discussions.


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