Though the TV networks are planning many specials to commemorate 9/11, advertisers say they will stay away. Already, Dell Computer Corp. said it won’t run advertising on any network planning news shows that day, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. Also, Fox and Fox News Channel announced that they won’t accept any ads or sponsorships for coverage of the anniversary of the terrorist attacks. “Salesmen don’t have much of a conscience, but I don’t know how I would sell it,” Fox’s Paul Rittenberg told The New York Times last week.
Why? Advertising is simply too light-hearted for such a somber setting, they say. Wrong. Seeing commercials come back four days after that dreadful day helped send a signal that we could go on again. At the same time, patriotism swept the land, and catalogers and retailers started selling flag-emblazoned ties, paper plates and the like. Companies aren’t abandoning the day out of respect but because they fear being seen as cashing in. They shouldn’t. “Tasteful advertising may not be the norm,” Tunku Varadarajan, the Journal’s chief TV and media critic, wrote last week. “But can anyone give me a reason why viewers, if presented with something respectfully done, should be turned off by it? Are they not more likely to be reassured — and to be put in a mood to reward those companies that made the effort?”
Commerce drives our society. There’s nothing wrong with making a buck. So, send a catalog, a letter, an e-mail — anything to break the silence. Doing nothing sends a message far worse.
Quadracci the Entrepreneur
If anyone personified the American Dream, it was Harry Quadracci. Using $35,000 from a second mortgage and capital from a few associates, he founded Quad/Graphics 31 years ago. Today, Quad is the largest privately held printing company in North America, and Forbes ranked Quadracci — worth $780 million — No. 333 on last year’s list of the 400 richest Americans. Quadracci didn’t like to follow the rules. Instead, he picked his managers from the plant floor and treated his blue-collar employees as equals. Along the way, he rode on an elephant to a company Christmas party and took the lead in the musical spoof “H.M.S. Printafour.” His larger-than-life persona and entrepreneurial skills will be missed.