Can New York City come back?
September 11th psychological effects harder to measure than physical damage.

While accountants tally the physical damage from the September 11th events, New York State has launched a massive advertising campaign to attenuate the psychological effects on the world's advertising capital.

The first step is a new "I Love New York," television spot launched ten days ago, simultaneously on 100 television stations throughout the U.S., as well as in Montreal and Toronto markets.

The spot features New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani and state governor George Pataki hamming it up, and includes other city personalities such as actor Ben Stiller, Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter and CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo.

To give an idea of how massive the New York City campaign is, the U.S. $40 million budgeted on this one effort is close to what the federal government - Canada's largest advertiser - spends on advertising for all its departments in one year.

One of the reasons for New York's huge effort, is that marketers -- more than most -- understand that while the dollar count for rebuilding the physical infrastructure will be eventually tallied, the psychological damage is harder to measure, and could even greater.

According to Peter Post, president of Cossette Post, a New York-based agency, the mood remains somber. "New York City is quiet. The streets, restaurants and hotels are all much emptier," said Post. "Cars with only one person are banned below 63rd Street, meaning traffic is lighter toward the southern tip of Manhattan."

Estimates of the September 11th damage, when the economic effects are taken into consideration are now running between U.S. $200 and $300 billion said Post. New York governor George Pataki has requested U.S. $54 billion in recovery, rebuilding and revitalization support, from Congress including U.S. $20 billion already approved.

However though the attacks were a devastating military strike, the sad truth is that they were also arguably one of the most effective public relations coups in history.

When marketers can't get their message through the clutter, they often stage "events" such as parties, contests and photo opportunities to get directly to their audience. The September 11th organizers understood this, and the attacks were an "event" as much as they were a military strike.

The number of people who saw repeated televised footage of the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center and the collapse of the two buildings is staggering. The effects will reverberate years, even decades from now.

That doesn't include the untold millions of shots of the twin towers currently in films, television shows (such as the Sopranos episode last night on CFCF-12) print photographs and videos that will either will have to be cut, or will continue to remind people of the attacks. Nor does it include the massive news coverage, government action, and individual conversations that all serve to remind people that New York City is vulnerable.

Marketers call these reminders "impressions." And the number of impressions derived from the attacks runs into the billions - an unheard of amount in the annals of marketing. This columnist's calculator doesn't have enough zeros even to do a preliminary estimate.

The psychological effect on New York's business and advertising community members who drive by this a hole in the ground, and look up to an altered skyline every day, is impossible to measure.

According to Post, between 60 and 70 per cent of all U.S. advertising expenditures are approved in New York City, including media buying and post-production work. And while preliminary estimates are that short term ad spending won't be affected much, economists warn that the margin of error in these kinds of estimates is high.

"I flew to Toronto recently and there were only six people in the plane," said Post. "There were 10 to 15 customer desk open and passengers had their choice. Mind you on the way back it was a little better - the plane was half full."

There is some good news however. According to one report, the number of film permits being approved by New York City officials for television commercials is back to pre-September 11th levels. But as big as that U.S. $40 million campaign may seem, it's going to take a lot more than that to restore confidence.



Photo Caption: The latest U.S. $40 million "I love New York" campaign, which features a personalities including actor Ben Stiller trumpets the city's resurgence in the wake of the September 11th events.


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