A day of mourning may turn into a week of distress for Madison Avenue and the networks.
Leery of looking crass, especially on nets covering the anni of the 9/11 attacks, many advertisers will be going dark not just for the day but potentially for the week.
“Some clients feel that it’s not the right time to be on the networks,” said Tim Spengler, executive veepee and director of national broadcasting for ad agency Initiative Media.
DeVito/Verdi prexy Ellis Verdi observes that a number of clients remain undecided about running commercials during that delicate week.
“It would not come as big surprise to me if the week was down,” he said. “There’s definitely a funky air about breaking a campaign around then. It’ll be an unusual time in terms of people’s moods and their media consumption.”
Several media buyers say that while they’ve noticed the downward trend in the past week, it’s too early to predict what the dropout rate will be.
As it stands, nets covering Sept. 11 commemorations will have very few underwriters and will lose around $50 million-$60 million on the day.
When they went dark for the four days after the attacks last year, they lost an estimated $300 million.
Nextel, one of the few sponsors on the anni coverage, will underwrite a rebroadcast of the documentary “9/11” on CBS. An Eye exec claimed that the net is still in discussions to bring in more sponsorship.
NBC also has a primetime sponsor in Boeing, which will underwrite its taped “Concert for America,” but a Peacock exec said that more advertising looks increasingly unlikely for the net.
“The situation hinges more on the ad community than on us now,” she said.
One, then none
According to one ABC exec, the net had a sponsor lined up on the condition that it would find another sponsor, but when the second advertiser didn’t appear, the first one backed out.
Fox announced last month that it will not run any advertising.
On the cable side, CNN will make room for spots, but will consult with creatives to ensure their appropriateness. The New York Stock Exchange will be at least one of the day’s underwriters.
“There seems to be more coverage than originally planned,” said Laura Caraccioli Davis, veepee of Starcom Media Group’s entertainment division. “Now everyone’s being overly sensitive. How can we have all this emotional coverage without a break?”
A recent poll conducted by Lightspeed Research determined that 51% of Americans believe that marketers should go dark, while 34% found running ads acceptable. The rest had no opinion.