Marketers Dealing with Tragedy

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Businesses were grappling with how marketing should be handled in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Although Walt Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks curtailed celebrations and certain rides in their parks, their Internet content remained relatively unchanged. greets visitors with standard content, except for a message of sympathy at the center of the front page. Users can click on the center circle, usually devoted to promotions, to learn about how employees and others can help in the relief effort. The company has established DisneyHAND: Survivor Relief Fund that will match employee donations dollar for dollar. The company also encouraged people to donate blood to the American Red Cross. did not mention the tragedy. Instead, flash advertisements announced Halloween Horror Nights XI at Universal Orlando and the release of "The Mummy Returns" DVD.

However, the company's Islands of Adventure park in Orlando took out scenes of New York destruction on the video of its Spider-Man ride. Walt Disney World in Orlando temporarily suspended its long-running fireworks show at Pleasure Island, which is staged in a "party atmosphere," according to a spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Walt Disney Internet Group said its and traffic remained flat during the first few days, but spiked to seven times the usual unique page views (Disney is not releasing total page views until it receives Media Metrix figures).

Servers were switched from to to handle the traffic. also altered its content, which usually focuses on its programs, to reflect news only on the tragedy. A splash page reflects the latest news, while the top link lets people know where they can go for help and to make donations. led with hard news on the crisis for the first two days, then switched to sports news, with a focus on sports stories relating to the event. included news on the tragedy, anticipating "a huge spike at other sites," said Kim Kerscher, spokeswoman for Walt Disney Internet Group. "They wanted to make sure people get information," she said.

Meanwhile on the retail front, urged customers to "help families devastated by the national tragedy" by donating funds to the American Red Cross. and other e-tailers offered their sympathies to the victims' families. A pop-up page on Mercedes-Benz's site,, said the company's prayers and thoughts go out to the innocent victims as well as to our "colleagues, families and friends experiencing horrific loss and pain."

Federated Direct spokesperson Brooke Adkins said the retailer's focus has been its associates, "to make sure that they and their families are OK."

Federated did not post notices related to the tragedy on its site. "We will reach out to those in need and are anxious to do so, but what form that will take is unclear at the moment," Adkins said.

However, offered its sympathies on a button that linked to a list of resources for offering help. had a pop-up window with a message of sympathy.

Adkins noted that it is too premature to indicate the impact on sales at and Federated stores.


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