Advertisers Drop the Laughs for Now

By De Marco, Donna | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

Advertisers Drop the Laughs for Now


De Marco, Donna, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Donna De Marco

Advertising is becoming a bit more sensitive - for now at least.

An industry known for its brassy attitude, tongue-and-cheek humor and bold moves is toning itself down in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

"Most clients want to stay away from the issue," said Matt Smith, executive creative director at Arnold Worldwide in McLean. "No one wants to do anything in bad taste."

American flags are getting tacked on to television commercials and print ads. Advertisers are replacing jokes with themes full of patriotism, integrity and American values.

Some advertisers have even scrapped their original fall advertising campaigns or pulled funny ads that could be deemed inappropriate for an audience that may be still grieving.

But most local advertising executives agree that advertising won't change drastically in the long run. Despite lingering uncertainty about how long the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism will go on, and whether it will succeed, advertising executives remain optimistic.

"It will get back to normal," said Doug Laughlin, president of Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens, an Arlington agency that handles advertising for Metro and the National Guard.

As Americans try to get on with their lives, businesses of all industries are doing the same. Advertisers are striving to strike a balance between aggressive, crafty campaigns while still capturing and respecting the collective mood of the nation.

Immediately after the attacks, advertisers across the board began pulling ads that featured the New York skyline, airplanes or even violence. Full-page ads from companies expressing sympathy replaced normal weekend sales ads.

The Ad Council, a nonprofit industry group, created public service ads featuring people of all ages, races and religions stating, "I am an American." Miller Brewing Co., Southwest Airlines and Lockheed Martin, to name a few, are running ads promoting integrity, hard work and the American way.

Consumers can expect a new wave of ads that reflect support for American troops now that U.S. military attacks have begun, said Mark Greenspun, creative director at Adworks, a Washington ad agency.

Traditionally, advertising has toned itself down after tragic events like the assassinations of John F. …

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