Commentary

War. What Is It Good For?

The advertising economy, actually.

Advertisers hate uncertainty. The lead-up to a war is the most uncertain time there can ever be for business organizations. It is not so much the fear TV and print advertisers have that their ads will be placed next to bloody scenes. It is more the complete shock to the collective psychology of the nation that's caused by knowing we are probably going to make war. It is the feeling in the belly that something is deeply wrong with the world as we normally understand it and we better stay in our caves until the bad spirits pass. It's akin to, but far beyond, how we react to major weather systems approaching. We watch their symbols on TV and worry about them. We listen to reports of how bad they might get. We stay indoors while the storms are raging outside, searching for information.

It is not at all logical. The chance that any war in a distant land, or even any terrorist act at home will injure any average one of us in any way is extremely remote. But, maybe it is not our worry for our own personal safety that freezes us into inaction. Maybe it is some deeply felt connection to the whole of humankind and to each individual human being that causes so much waiting, watching and worrying. We know somebody is going to get hurt and we can't stand it. It causes us to stop functioning while we protect those close to us, stay out of the line of fire and empathize with those less lucky than ourselves.

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Like the approach of a hurricane, the waiting and worrying are over when the storm hits. It is that moment when we actually learn the size of the system for ourselves and discover that we will be able to survive. And, we can begin making plans for the time after the storm is over.

That's where we are as a nation and as business people and marketers now. We can see that this war will be over quickly. The planning for life after this war can now begin. This doesn't mean we'll stop watching and worrying about how this maelstrom in a distant land could still hurt those we love. It just means we now know that beyond the turmoil, life will go on. There is much to do and we are behind in the doing of it.

As to our business lives, we have learned once again that running our businesses well is all we ever had some control over. And, it's good to believe once again that there are some events that we can shape to our will -- that our actions can have a good and positive reaction. And, of course, that is advertising's role for our business organizations -- the positive act of faith in a better future.

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