I had several people ask how my St. Paddy's Day was after reading my last piece. Well, I was in a loud, cheerful bar when all of a sudden the wait staff ran and turned up the volume on all the TV sets. It was President Bush's announcement of a 48-hour countdown. Needless to say, there was silence. After his speech the mood was tempered... almost courteous.
The next day was a bit haphazard. The agency I work for formally sent out a piece to clients, vendors, and press addressing a viewpoint of what to do with their advertising in case of war. I have to say I was relieved we had done this. Our clients had a plan, we had a plan, but the uncertainty made it feel like we were treading water. I think unlike the tragedies of 9/11, we were prepared for this, but, and there is no eloquent way to say it, being prepared was weird.
We kept calling news and business-related sites to see if they had formalized a policy. We checked our creative with a fine toothcomb and asked questions like, "Is there any visual or copy that could be taken out of context? Should we change the tone to be less humorous in some of our ads? Could the ad unit potentially be deemed intrusive?"
All of this seemed a bit meaningless in the grand scheme of things. And if you are thinking of posting questions that ask why I had to do these things or that these tasks seem insignificant, don't. I work in advertising. It's my responsibility to my company and our advertisers.
Most sites seemed to do a fairly good job of posting headlines and blurbs as they came in. Most user sessions seemed protected. No advertising or additional content seemed to interrupt except -- oh just take a guess -- none other than x-10 pop ups, pop-ups from a certain travel site that shall remain nameless (the agencies really should have thought about that), and none other than AOL pop-unders pimping out version 8.0.
I jumped on quite a few homepages, from financial sites to news to entertainment to verticals and community sites, and most mentioned the war in their headlines. Many linked to relevant news sources. I realized what a quirky community the online world is. MSN had a title "Love and War" (Iraq and personals seemed to be a bizarre combination.) Several sites had areas to post support messages to our troops. Others had sections on how to cope. Patriotic screen savers sprinkled instant messenger boxes.
One huge disappointment was the increase of spam. Did you see an increase? I either log on in the office, laptop it and log on at home, or check email off my mobile office device on my cell phone. Sometimes it's hard to decipher what's spam and what's not. Oh, I'm used to getting about 5 - 10 messages daily that tell me how to increase the size of a particular organ I do not have. What I'm not used to is Hoorah, let's support our troops, or support those you love in Iraq. How wrong is this? Someone needs to tell me how to survive the spam war.
However, it was rather nice to have to dig deep to find out if the NCAA tourney and the Oscars were on schedule or postponing. To this writer, it was even better finding out the schedule remained.
We had a local Boston Interactive Media Association event on the night of the announcement, and the board polled folks from Boston and New York to see who was still planning on coming. Most were. The event went on. It took forever to get in with multiple security checks and police with motorcycles lining the streets. We needed to keep IDs handy for checks along the way. We were safe, everyone was together, and it was a great showing. I'll admit the mood initially seemed a bit mundane. After a bit, it seemed as if everyone was genuinely happy to see one another (well, not everyone, but most). I saw friends I hadn't seen in 5 or 6 years. It was so amazing to have survived our own industry fallout and be rekindled at such an uncertain time in the world.
Since then, I've continued the week and the weekend grabbing onto sound bytes, be it online or on the CNN ticker bar. At the Oscars, a couple of people answered the question of, "Why have such an event at this time?" They summed it up in a word: Tradition. I too, didn't stop living my life; I just looked at it a bit differently.