Inside Move: September chill for nets

Ad biz puts 9/11 spend on ice

TV is rallying around the 9/11 anni, but Madison Avenue hasn’t heeded the cry.

While broadcast and cable nets have prepped a plethora of memorial programs, advertisers, citing the matter of tone, are staying away en masse.

But, in fact, Madison Avenue had plenty of practical reasons to take the day off.

Among them:

  • Fragmented viewership. The heavy coverage is likely to find auds flipping channels more than usual.

  • Demo disadvantages. Auds that day will likely skew older, as news programs often do.

  • Transitional blues. 9/11 is sandwiched in the middle of one of the year’s most dismal TV weeks, when repeats are the norm before the new season begins.

So, for Madison Avenue, taking 9/11 off may be, quite simply, a logical time to save money. Advertisers will save (and networks will lose) $50 million-$60 million that day.

The few companies that have stepped forward to advertise on 9/11 already had some kind of relationship to the attacks of a year ago.

Boeing (which is sponsoring coverage on NBC) had its planes hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nextel (a CBS sponsor) handed out thousands of its cell phones to emergency workers during rescue and recovery operations. The New York Stock Exchange (a CNN sponsor) lost many of its associates in the WTC attacks.

But other companies associated with 9/11, such as airline companies and investment banks, will forgo advertising on the anniversary, underscoring that above all, a sense of prudence prevails on Madison Avenue.

“When people aren’t sure about something, they usually do nothing,” says former ad firm honcho Bob Schmidt. “That’s definitely the ad business way.”

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