Anthrax--Sleeping With the Enemy
How are direct marketers coping?
by Denny Hatch, Contributing Editor
On November 22, 1963, Consumer Reports circulation director Paul Goldberg was having lunch at the Pierre hotel in New York with two of his counterparts in the business when the maitre d' came over to say that the President of the United States had been shot. "Oh, my God!" said the woman on Goldberg's right. "Oh, my God!," said the woman on Goldberg's left. "Oh, my mail!" said Goldberg.
It's a given: A major catastrophe will clobber results as Americans spend an inordinate number of additional hours watching events unfold on television while mail, household chores and bills pile up. In terms of trying to make sense of results in the wake of a national tragedy, don't bother. In the words of Dorothy Fields, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again."
The 24-hour cable news networks are hell bent on prolonging the agony. Particularly insidious is the media game of "What if...": What if a hijacked plane flies into a nuclear power facility? What if smallpox is loosed on the country? Remember the seven basic copy drivers of direct mail consultants Bob Hacker and Axel Andersson: Fear, Greed, Guilt, Anger, Exclusivity, Salvation, Flattery. It's no coincidence that fear, guilt and anger are among the first four, and the media are feeding on them to the hilt.
The government is doing its best to exact revenge against those who took advantage of its massive intelligence failure. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is buying machines to kill anthrax. This is a bump in the road. So let's get on with it.
How are direct marketers getting on with it?
I called a slew of list brokers, consultants and publishers to try to discover what they and their clients have done in light of the Sept. 11 horror and the anthrax scare. Most marketers did the obvious: immediately canceled all mailings to downtown Manhattan and Pentagon area ZIP codes.