How to Respond

How do we personally respond to something like the World Trade Center attacks?

Nothing has prepared any of us in this generation for something like this. There is no security in looking at past experiences. There aren’t any like this one. In addition to its immediate trauma, it exacerbates our fear of the unknown, of the future.

As the days go by, we are evolving from thinking first about the victims and their families to gradually incorporating how we are feeling ourselves. And we are now finally starting to think out wardly about our clients and their advertising.

What kind of advertising should we do? It’s a question that seemed all too trivial to pose to myself even silently during the first week after the disaster. But as we move not back to normal but at least back to work, we have to ask it because that is our job.

To answer it requires some perspective. The purpose of terrorism is to de-normalize our lives. Dis ruption of our psyche can have the effect of disrupting our entire society. What is the Dow Jones index but a measure of communal confidence? This is, in effect, our business, too, so we should not be surprised at the power that feelings and emotions can have on a nation.

By changing our habits and our lives, however, we give the terrorists exactly what they want. It is uncertain whether we can ever “win” this war in the conventional sense. For every terrorist that you make a martyr of, you probably create three more. So what is victory?

One answer is psychological. If the intended effect is, in fact, psychological, isn’t the way to fight it psychological as well?

I say the proper response is defiant normalism. Do exactly what you would have done before. Buy stocks in great American companies. Fly. Vacation. Spend money. Start new ventures.

The war takes place in every one of our minds, and we are all soldiers fighting fear with the courage to carry on as usual. If this is our behavior, what about our ads? Should they all be deadly serious now? Is humor out?

I say no. Don’t change a thing. It’s not what the victims would have wanted, and it’s exactly what the terrorists do want.

America is a brand. Great brands lead people, they don’t just react. If we want consumers to have confidence, we have to be confident. Defiantly normal. It’s how the British were in World War II as their cities were being bombed every night. They made a statement that said their culture would be protected. Tea in the afternoon, no matter what.

We Americans have always had a sense of humor. The ability to entertain. To have fun. Our advertising is a reflection of all this. It should stay this way.