This may be October, but it is still September 11th for the world of advertising, where many images and jokes created before the attack have been rendered horrible double entendres. Brooke talks to ad man Jon Frierson about the process of vetting his agency's entire pre-Sept. 11 output looking for the suddenly inappropriate.
Vetting the Ads
October 6, 2001
BOB GARFIELD: September 11th may or may not have changed everything. Three weeks later the sitcoms are back; the late night quips are back; and a gratuitously violent movie opens this weekend. But it is still September 11th for the world of advertising where many images and jokes created before the attack have been rendered horrible double-entendres.
What once seemed innocuous, such as Coke's slogan "Life tastes good," can seem trivial or insensitive. Joining us is John Fryerson [sp?] of Fryerson and Partners in New York. He's just gone through the process of vetting his agencies entire pre-September 11th output looking for the suddenly inappropriate. John, welcome to On the Media.
JOHN FRYERSON: Thank you. It's good to be here.
BOB GARFIELD: Now we, we've spoken on this show about how the TV networks have gone out of their way to remove all of the images that were suddenly rendered offensive by the World Trade Center disaster. Is the motivation for doing it any different in advertising than it is for programmers?
JOHN FRYERSON: Well I think it is somewhat different. I think advertisers spend a great deal of energy, time and energy all on one single image. I mean we can spend months and months perfecting a, a - an image in order to elicit a very specific emotional response.
We had one ad that showed a, a lovely woman sort of gazing up into the sky, and she was looking through binoculars.
It was a very spirited look like all about the possibilities of life and things were - that were to come in the future. Well suddenly in light of these events, she seemed like she was looking for something to happen -- something that may not be good. So it just seemed to have a completely different nuance from-- what we thought it meant.
In other cases we've actually had entire campaigns that I think we've had to rethink because for example one of our clients, the core strategy of the brand was that this brand is about surprise. Well-- I'm not sure people want to be surprised right now. So that means that really in a way, regardless of the execution, whether it's a radio ad or a television ad or a print ad we, we had to sort of rethink it.
BOB GARFIELD: What else don't people want to be right now besides surprised?
JOHN FRYERSON:Well, I'm not sure that there's anything that's absolutely out of the question. But I do think the tone will change. Like I said, advertising is a business of nuance, and I think the nuance and the tone will change. I think people are going to be moving in the direction of things that are more about relationships with people that they love, about their families -- things that matter suddenly matter more.
So it's hard - I think, I think some brands you know there, there's sort of a short term reaction of this which is: is this appropriate and is it appropriate now? But I think there is also sort of some long term changes that will happen that, that you know could affect brands differently from what they're thinking right now.
BOB GARFIELD:You've gone through this process of vetting all of what's -- previously had seemed innocuous images or at, at least inoffensive images. Have you, have you learned anything about advertising? Learning anything about your craft that hadn't hitherto occurred to you?
JOHN FRYERSON: Well I learned that, that God is in the details. You know we spend our days making incredibly minute decisions about color, about type faces, about words, about exactly what the model looks like -- all of these little decisions combined to, to create an emotional connection with the consumer. And when you start evaluating that through a very extreme magnifying glass, when you start evaluating that emotional connection, you start to see all those little details, and you start to see how much they matter.
BOB GARFIELD: All right! John Fryerson, thank you very much!
JOHN FRYERSON: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: John Fryerson is a partner in Fryerson, Me and Partners in lower Manhattan.
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