Help wanted - Madison Ave.

Advertisers inhabit a rich, diverse, highly informative, and entertaining universe.

What works in selling cornflakes is unlikely to promote a Bose audio system for the new SUV. We know this, and no matter what we say, we like to see how smart, creative people work out details on such ads.

In the aftermath of the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center, a number of TV commercials originally scheduled were pulled. Style, tone, content - the message - were not appropriate.

Madison Avenue, with the best weathervane in the media business, put its own thumb on the skip button. The spin folks knew viewers would want a more serious and more dignified feel, at least for now.

But the persuaders abhor a vacuum. Their raison d'ĂȘtre: to pitch products and services at the intersection of imagination and appetite. If the ear hears it, the eye sees it, the tongue tastes it, the nose smells it, a finger touches it - and the exchange of money makes it happen - the ad shops want to be there.

In some cases, in just a few hours, new, appropriately sensitive commercials started airing. Suddenly, in almost every ad we saw, patriotism was as plain as the horizon of a Kansas wheat field.

Now, the question remains: In a culture of all-marketing, all-the-time, will there be any lasting changes in the content and theme of advertisements after Sept. 11?

We did see a sea change in the decline of negative ads in the past two presidential elections. Public sentiment demanded it.

Kim Campbell's article (right) takes a closer look at some of the longer-term trends in advertising following the New York and Washington attacks. Just how far public sentiment has shifted is still an open question.

E-mail Ideas@csps.com.

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