Advertising is clearly playing a significant role in America's
Patriotism (if handled appropriately) is bringing people hope. Agencies
have taken the lead in understanding changing customer opinion, and a
raft of new campaigns have helped Americans adapt to their new
Equally, Asian agencies need to lead their clients - but where to? For
us, the task is deeply complex. Asia's reaction is multi-faceted,
unexpected and at times perhaps even contradictory to that of the West.
The result is that few clear patterns are emerging about an 'Asian'
The key to reacting appropriately is to understand that different
countries see the crisis from different points of view. Each sees the
situation through a lens of their own concerns, and brings cultural
assumptions that can be very unexpected.
In much of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, Muslims view the US
bombings in Afghanistan as an attack on them - even if they were
horrified by the attacks on New York and Washington. US brands doubtless
need to develop damage limitation plans, yet asking themselves all the
while: is all what it seems? In Indonesia, for example, many people
believe the anti-US rioters are being paid.
Hong Kong and Singapore, perhaps true to their natures, seem gripped by
the psychological impact of a recession that was already gathering pace
So what advice can we give to those who want their marketing to be
Above all, Westerners and expats need to recognise that for many Asians,
9/11 was not the rude awakening that it was for many of us.
It didn't shatter the Asian sense of security (because few Asian
countries would be direct targets themselves). It didn't alter the Asian
perception of the world geo-political order (because Asia as a trading
bloc and diplomatic entity is much what it was before). It remains
largely, at this point, an economic catastrophe. Our marketing
approaches must be born of this reality. We, as an agency community,
need to understand the implications of the Afghan war from a local point
of view. That involves talking to each other - agencies need to
encourage a frank and uncluttered dialogue to harness local points of
We also need to tailor our messages to address human problems, resulting
from the crisis, from local people's perspectives - but we shouldn't
feel the need to make the new reality a focal point if it does not
Already, recurrent news images of war and destruction are beginning to
be seen as "boring", and there is a desire for happier, lighter
And finally, we must remain constantly alert to hidden messages that
might be conveyed inadvertently. One Indonesian bank is believed to have
recently changed its ad layouts to depict local currency rather than US
dollars. Little matter that Indonesians want to save dollars - the bank
did not want to risk being seen as unpatriotic or too pro-American.