For the past few days, I’ve been trying to come up with an appropriate way to mark the first anniversary of the events of September 11th 2001. It is a subject that is being well-covered, perhaps to excess, on other websites and in every other medium. Earlier this week, Laura Bush, the First Lady, pleaded with broadcasters to show restraint in their programming for this week – I can see her motives, but I doubt that the broadcasters will be swayed.
It’s a time to reflect not only on the deaths that occurred that day, and the thousands more that have occurred since as a direct result, but also to look at our own attitudes that have been changed and modified and formed by the events and the events since then.
I think the biggest single lesson that has come from this is that there is never a simple or straightforward solution for anything. We live in a world of unbelievably complex networks, links and associations, such that any action in one place can have repercussions in a place far, far away, or on a group or individual that apparently seems far, far removed from the instigator or recipient of the original action. If a butterfly moving its wings in the Amazon rain forest can cause a storm in England, what impact does launching a battery of missiles in the Middle East have?
It almost seems trite to draw a literary comparison, but the best book I have read that attempts to look at nature of these connections is Ghostwritten by David Mitchell – I’ve just read it, and it is one of the best novels I have ever read.
But I digress.
Perhaps the best way for us to mark the anniversary is to carry on with life: to remember, certainly, but also to build, learning the lessons that have been or should have been learnt from the events that day, and the attitudes and mindsets that led up to them. And not just learning the lessons, but implementing them, allowing those ideas to form our new ideas and actions in the future. If we don’t do this, with the aim of creating a better world for ourselves, the people around us, and the generations to come, then the deaths of everyone in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Phillipines and elsewhere will have all been for nothing.
I hope and believe that this should apply to everyone, no matter what your race, faith, background, language, gender, nationality, colour, politics or belief.
If only I had the sufficient faith in human nature to believe that it could happen.
I’m not going to write anything more on the subject. I don’t think I can express my ideas sufficiently clearly – and those ideas are not fully formed and are always in flux, changing as new information becomes available to me. What I will do though is to encourage you to read widely – check out other people’s blogs and see what ideas they have; look at news sites around the world (see here for a list of sites that I visit from time to time); read newspapers and magazines, and not just the usual ones. Get opinion and “fact” from as many viewpoints and sources as you can.
I’m going to leave you with an article. It hasn’t been published online as far as I can tell. It is from the September 2002 issue of Marketing Business, which is the magazine of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. It is by Jaimie Seaton. She is a journalist based in Connecticut, and has written for many titles including the Sunday Times and Newsweek. I present this article without any further comment.
The premise is simple. Various people sitting around in front of a boring pea-green background, describing their harrowing escapes from the World Trade Center (WTC) on September 11. The stories are riveting. No matter how many times we hear them, survival stories from that day never lose their capacity to touch the listener.
But these stories aren’t being told to a documentary filmmaker or journalist. They are being told as part of an advertising campaign for the brokerage firm, Cantor Fitzgerald & Co.
Designed by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, the campaign of TV spots and print ads feature Cantor Fitzgerald employees who survived a trip to hell and back. Cantor Fitzgerald and its subsidiary, eSpeed, have the dubious distinction of having lost the most people on that September day – 658 of 1050 WTC-based employees died in the attack. In the days that followed, Cantor CEO Howard Lutnick was a constant presence on American television, where he wept as he talked about the incalculable loss. Lutnick’s brother was among those killed in the attacks.
“It’s not so much a campaign as an opportunity for the employees to tell their story to the world,” says Amy Nauiokas, director of global marketing for Cantor Fitzgerald and eSpeed. “We wanted to let the world know we are here and we survived,” added Nauiokas, whose own story is featured in the campaign.
Reaction in the US has been mixed. While some viewers find the stories inspirational, others question its appropriateness. Brian Bernstein, a financial analyst at one of the major Wall Street firms that occupied the WTC, was sitting at his desk on the 38th floor of Tower One when the first plane hit. He describes the building swaying so violently that his first thought was that the tower might tip over completely. He was making his way down the stairs when the second plane hit.
“I do think it’s a nice service of the company to put the stories online and make them available to the public,” says Bernstein. “I’m just wondering if this is an appropriate angle to use in the firm’s marketing strategy. One can’t help wondering if Cantor is trying to profit from the tragedy, but one hopes that isn’t the case.”
Nauiokas bristles at the suggestion that anyone might find fault with the campaign. “September 11 is part of who we are now,” she says. “We want the world to know what drives us. The reason these companies exist today is because we are all here to honour the people we lost and we are going to take care of their families.” Cantor Fitzgerald has pledged 25% of profits to the families of the dead for the next five years.
Additionally, the firm is paying the health insurance for families for the next ten years.
“We’ve always been a unique organisation in that we know each other and see each other outside of the office. I’m proud to be part of a team that has kept the companies going and that is taking care of those families,” says Nauiokas.
In response, Bernstein says, “It’s very noble for them to live up to their promises to the victims’ families, and of course their responsibilities to the investors. However, the television spot digs a little too much into the tragedy by presenting the stories. I think it would be more effective if the company were straightforward about their goals. As it is, the spot leaves a blurred perception and makes one question if the sympathy card is being used. As a survivor, I can’t really say if the campaign is disrespectful, but it leaves a funny taste in the mouth.”
In Advertising Age, Bob Garfield wrote: “If any company has the right to invoke 9/11 – even exploit it for sympathy – it is Cantor. And it is beyond our reach to pass judgement. We can only muse. Why? Why run this campaign? Is it marketing or catharsis? Inspiration or pathos?”
In the end, the question of why the campaign was initiated may overshadow the campaign itself. Perhaps, as Garfield suggests, catharsis is the answer. Perhaps the survivors at Cantor Fitzgerald just need to tell their story.
eSpeed/Cantor Fitzgerald website – you can view the ads here.
Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund
BrandEra article on the same subject
Advertising Age article
One Year Later: A Triumph of the Ordinary – also from Advertising Age
BBC – Flashback to 10 September 2001