War on the Brain

It’s my first week on the Spin Board, and I thought I’d be able to come out of the gate with pom-poms waving (notice I’m the only girl in the group), but no such luck. Why, you ask? Simply put, the pending war.

Rest assured, I’ve been so taxed with this issue from a work standpoint, that I’m left with little or no time to think of it from a personal standpoint, and although anti-war protesting seems to be the new chic, it’s not my mantra to get into politics or the love or hate of the American government. Instead, the big question is, “How will the pending war affect advertising and marketing?”

Yes, I know some of you are cringing. I’d ask that you don’t argue with me yet. First, consider who I am and whom I work for and the clients I keep. I’m probably quite similar to you. I head up a small online media group that falls within a larger media group housed in a mid-sized agency owned by a holding company. (Say that ten times fast.) My clients are big and not-so-big. They range from B2B to B2C in a variety of verticals including telecom, retail, technology, media, and the like. And no matter which type of client, they come to us for counsel on questions such as:

  • How much media do we have booked for ‘Q2?
  • If need be, do we have an opt-out clause?
  • What are the networks, publishers, and websites saying they’ll do in case of war?
  • How will news be affected?
  • Is my creative too light and humorous for the environment?
  • Should we pull our ads altogether and wait and see?



    So how did I handle this? Well, I tapped into folks like you. I posted the big question to a group of sellers. I needed to know what was happening… what they thought… and what they were directed to do.

    The replies reflected quantity, not quality. Folks went on and on with their political diatribes. Some were angry and said they thought there was “absolutely no way advertising should be stopped” in the event of war. Others from news and information sites said it was their company's duty to keep Netizens informed. Most guessed they would not accept home page ads and make sure advertising didn't prevent users from obtaining up-to-the-minute news. The result was that I didn't get a whole lot.

    The research community was a little more helpful. A question polled recently by MediaPost was, "Will a war negatively impact my media budgets?" Not to my surprise, most of the 1,079 respondents did not disagree that it would. Also, according to the Pew Internet Project, 85% of American Internet users expect to be able to find reliable, up-to-date news online.

    Further, total ad spending in 1991 (the year of the Persian Gulf War) only decreased by about 2%. Last year, spending decreased by 10%. It was mostly attributed to the attacks of 9/11.

    So how do consumers feel? How will they consume media if/when war starts? I haven't been able to get my paws on much, so I'm doing some research now, but some people have boldly told me, "This isn't an online issue; it’s a broadcast issue." Hmmm, really? Let's peek under the tent of what's going on in the network television world -- looks like most Americans care more about the fact that Joe Millionaire has finally selected a woman, The Bachelorette picked her prospective mate, and Michael Jackson's freaky 300-acre Neverland. To be completely insulted by the American culture's broadcast fetishes just take a look at the ratings – almost 18 MM viewers watched the original Michael Jackson interview on ABC and over 10MM viewers watched his rebuttal on Fox last week.

    Surfing around for coverage and conversation on the potential war online seems to resemble the content offline today. On the portals and new sites "hot" topics are none other than reality TV, The King of Pop being a freak, the King of Pop rebutting, spring fashion, retail sales, and a little bit of polling on the war. Before you get all bent out of shape, I'm not saying there isn't proper coverage out there. seems to be leading the pack. The leading financial sites are addressing it in a proactive way. However, the sites look and smell like TV to me.

    This concerns me and leaves me with several questions:

  • Are we (as American citizens) desensitized?
  • Have we established a thick skin and a kick-your-ass attitude since 911?
  • Do most of us want mere escapism?
  • Are we just plain stupid?

    Enlighten me, dear readers, and I promise I'll dust off the pom-poms next time.

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