Horror Today, Sale-athon Tomorrow?

In the almost 20 years that I’ve been a practitioner of advertising, first as a copywriter and more recently as a director and a consultant, I’ve been involved in my share of schlocky holiday assignments. Remember “Celebrate the red, white and blue for a lot less green”? That was me.

Sure, being invited to participate in an assignment like that always gave me a vague sense of unease. But I couldn’t articulate exactly what bothered me. And why should I, when I had a deadline to meet and a Clio to win? Besides, it was always an interesting challenge to figure out what Memorial Day had to do with 35 percent off on a rental car.

But then the terrorists took out the World Trade Center.

Now I’ve never been called a patriot, and the events of Sept. 11 aren’t likely to change that. But it has become clear to me that what I was doing—what we were doing—was wrong.

Holidays are for remembering the things we hold important as a people. And to look at the state of affairs, the one thing we hold important as a people is an opportunity to save money on things we don’t need.

It’s only a matter of time before Sept. 11 is declared a national holiday. At first, we’ll celebrate it with dignity. We’ll hold candlelight vigils and have a minute of silence to commemorate the dead.

But eventually, some pizza place or mattress store or tire retailer somewhere will have the bright idea that the Sept. 11 weekend would be a great time to hold a sale. As much as the spectre of a terrorist attack scares me, this frightens me even more. Because the implications for our culture are much more profound.

It’s a long overwrought debate as to whether advertising shapes or reflects American culture. The reality is that it does both.

What matters is that Osama bin Laden contends we in the West have no compunction about profaning what’s sacred in pursuit of the almighty dollar. If we in the advertising business ever mount a Sept. 11 sale-athon, then he’s right.

Brian Belefant
Santa Monica, Calif.

For the record: The Coca-Cola Co. misstated information that appeared in an Adweek news story [Oct. 15] indicating that Doner in Southfield, Mich., was losing the Simply Orange account and would be off the Coke roster. In fact, Doner continues to handle Simply Orange and remains on the Coke roster.