Auto ads are yanked as the nation mourns

Some canceled network TV events that were to have auto advertising

  • Latin Grammy Awards, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11. Yet to be rescheduled.

  • The Emmy Awards ceremony, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 16. Yet to be rescheduled.

  • Major League Baseball games through Sunday, Sept. 16

  • Weekend pro and college football games

  • Automakers canceled some advertising and scrutinized other ads for insensitivity after the attacks.

    As did most everything on TV last week, commercials took a back seat to the nonstop coverage of the terrorist attacks.

    TV networks did not broadcast commercials during their coverage. As of Friday, Sept. 14, major networks had not resumed regular programming.

    On the day after the attacks, DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler group and Mercedes-Benz USA Inc. already had pulled all TV advertising through at least Sunday, Sept. 16.

    "We like to make our advertising interesting, exciting and upbeat, and it just didn't seem appropriate, given what's going on and given what's being broadcast on the news," said Chrysler spokesman Mike Roseneau.

    Automakers do not have to pay for commercials that didn't run last week.

    Kristen Simmons, vice president of marketing for Mazda North American Operations, said networks have eliminated most violent programs from their schedules since the attacks. But before airing a commercial on cable TV, she will take "a closer look, program by program, to make sure they're not showing anything insensitive." Mazda spends most of its ad budget on TV.

    Ford Motor Co. and its divisions last week decided not to run ads during the slots that had been scheduled to carry sports and entertainment events. All pro football games were canceled over the weekend, as were major college football games, NASCAR races and Major League Baseball.

    "This is all out of respect for the tragedy," said Ford spokeswoman Paige Johnson. "We're looking very carefully at other ads that may contain footage that may be inappropriate down through Tier 2," she said, referring to regional commercials.

    No time for mambo

    For example, Ford Division encouraged its dealer advertising associations to pull a TV commercial featuring the song "Mambo No. 5." Division spokesman John Jelinek said the upbeat spot is of questionable taste given the country's mood.

    Nissan North America Inc. also pulled a TV spot for the Maxima because it is inappropriate, said spokesman Kurt von Zumwalt. In the commercial, the Grim Reaper is on a horse, chasing the Maxima in the desert.

    Meanwhile, Pontiac postponed the launch of its brand campaign, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 16. Television ads were to debut on CBS' coverage of the Emmy Awards ceremony that night, which was canceled the day of the attack.

    In print, Lincoln pulled an ad from the November issue of National Geographic. "It's a city spot for the LS, and it shows Manhattan," said Lincoln spokesman Jim Trainor. The brand wanted to avoid any reference to New York, he said, "but all ads for October are too late to do anything about."

    And in events, Land Rover postponed its "Road to Adventure" program, which will take the new Freelander sport-utility to consumers nationwide. The $113,500 program had been scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 23, through Nov. 18.

    Subaru of America Inc. canceled its Outback Rendezvous event, scheduled for this past weekend in Reston, Va.

    Other automotive marketers, including Toyota, Kia and Hyundai, planned no changes to their creative work nor media schedules by late last week.

    No tributes planned

    Also as of late last week, no automakers planned to create any ads in memory of victims.

    Ford has suffered considerable damage to its image of late, mostly related to the Explorer sport-utility, but Jelinek said the company will not take advantage of last week's tragedies in order to win back some of America's trust.

    "I wouldn't say we're looking to exploit that tragedy at all," he said, "but we are planning a companywide effort to help."

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