The war has begun. I believe in peace. (I don’t want to start a debate, but who in their right mind would believe in war?) I am seeing things freshly these days, once again through my teenage boy. He believes in peace and is having a hard time understanding what is going on.
I also believe strongly in supporting the men and women who are “on the wall” today and about to go across that now famous “line in the sand” described by General Norman Schwartzkopf. I expect that by the time you read this, we will have done more than send in some missiles. We will have committed hundreds of thousands of Americans, abroad and millions at home in harms way. As much as I believe in peace, the fact is that we are at war and that changes everything. I will be happy when the war is over. But I will pray for those engaged in it and those civilians who are caught in the middle.
At the same time, going back to some of my writings after September 11, I feel that if we lose track of doing business and moving ahead, “they win.” After all, on that topic, Bill Clinton was right. It is the economy. Our company and many others are on the verge of climbing out of a deep dark hole. (See Jim Meskauskas’s Spin yesterday on the hiring going on.) We are hiring too. We are doing this to support real, legitimate business. Both existing clients, and the new clients that are also trying to dig themselves out and who see advertising as a great tool to assist them in doing so.
I appreciate the fact that this country is so free that the anarchists can do their thing (as long as they don’t burn down buildings!) along side those supporting the war. But I cannot get behind leaving my car in the middle of the street as a statement. First, I like my car. Second, I believe that the best thing I can do for my family, my company, my clients and my country is to show up at work and be productive.
Another related muse has to do with publicity, organization and commercialization. As did many, I followed the Doonesbury commentary on the inclusion of journalists into many front line units. Wednesday night, I could not help but be aware of the “on the scene” reporting from foxholes, aircraft carriers, cruise missile ships, etc. The spin that our government is able to put on the war by putting the journalists in the middle of things and keeping them very well informed is going to make this the most “eyes on” war in history. That’s a double-edged sword, as we saw in Vietnam and all wars since then. It’s great when things are going well, but…
The other aspect I want to discuss is organization and commercialization. When we marched against the Vietnam war in 1967 and 1968 “a half a million strong” down Fifth Avenue and Central Park West to meet in Sheep’s Meadow, the only organization involved was a small (but growing) Vietnam Vets Against The War. Those anti-war marches were largely individuals. Last weekend, my family, at the urging of my teenage son, participated in a peace march in San Francisco. It was like a parade, with many different organizations gathering around the Civic Center, waiting for the march to start and taking their place in the order of march that snaked through the Western Addition in San Francisco. Unions, companies, schools, and various organizations. Many with a specific agenda. Some having to do with the war and some having to do with astute guerilla marketing. For example, many vegan groups were out in force handing out collateral on changing your life through diet. This kind of thing never happened in the 60’s. I for one thought that the vegans could have been much better organized, though. The missed a big shot by not grouping together to sing, “All we are saying, is give peas a chance”.
Like many, I hope that the war is over soon and we can get back to business. Half my staff has called in to report that they are stuck in traffic due to demonstrations. Makes me rethink my strategy for the day and wonder if we should not all just head down to the Connecticut Yankee to watch the NCAA basketball tourney.
Hopefully, we can get back to “normal”, whatever that is, “real soon now.”
David L. Smith is President and CEO of Mediasmith, Inc.