Advertisers take ‘kid glove’ stance

Global advertising community pulls campaigns in sympathy for victims of US terrorism

Almost every business sector is feeling the reverberations from the unprecedented terrorist attack on the US last week.

Many companies have taken swift action to protect their products and show they are sensitive to public concern by dropping campaigns. TV companies themselves are acting as a filter – last week Granada pulled ads for airlines, Weetabix, Red Bull and Renault over content issues.

Coca-Cola, perhaps the brand most associated with the US, has dropped its “Life Tastes Good” strapline for the time being. A Dr Pepper ad created by Mother, running in the UK and Ireland, which featured a young boy being cut out of his underwear by emergency services, has been dropped.

So has the Mini campaign depicting attacking aliens, which has been running since the start of the month.

Lever Fabergé has pulled its ad for Persil Non-Bio, which shows a baby who wants to be a pilot. A company spokesperson says: “The company completely understands and fully supports the decision to remove any advertising that may cause offence following last week’s disaster”.

Commenting on the kid glove approach now being adopted, one advertising insider said: “No organisation wants to offend anybody. The situation will remain this way until the British casualties are repatriated and funerals have taken place.”

There will have to be a constant review of circumstances as the US’ armed response develops.

Airlines pulled their advertising campaigns within hours of the attack (MW last week). They now face the task of rebuilding customer confidence, while having to pass on rising costs for cancelled flights and new security measures to passengers. It is understood that most airlines have cancelled advertising in Europe and the US.

However, cut-price airline Go, which does not run Transatlantic flights, said that it had seen a recovery in bookings by the weekend and it was ready to launch a low price press promotion today (Wednesday) after postponing the initiative from last week. European carrier RyanAir said bookings fell by 20 per cent last Wednesday and Thursday but only ten per cent for the week overall and said that “advance bookings remain strong”.

A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says cancellations are not as bad as “the media seems to imply”. He added that whenever there is a security issue, large numbers of Americans cancel trips.

Indications are showing that UK consumers are nervous about travelling to any location, not just to the US. Federation of Tour Operators spokeswoman Sarah Rees adds: “People are calling our members for reassurance about other destinations that might have been in the news, but there is not a great deal of fall-out.”

UK television companies are expected to reschedule the advertising time surrendered to blanket coverage of the event. For instance, Granada Enterprises calculates that it gave up 60 minutes of advertising in each of its regions last Tuesday and 30 minutes on each of the following three days.

The attacks had an instantaneous effect on the marketing community with the US Marketing Forum, due to set sail last Wednesday, being postponed. This year’s Marketing Forum on the cruise ship Oriana, due to start Wednesday 19 September has seen up to 20 marketers withdraw because of business circumstances arising following the attack.

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