What effect do you think the Iraq conflict will have on the marketing industry?
SN: For organisations like ourselves that get the majority of their funding from government, it could effect us quite severely. If Gordon Brown cannot finance the war sufficiently he may raid other government department budgets, and that means less money for government sponsored organisations.
LW: We have not seen slumps in our market and any unsteadiness should calm now that the war has started – thus marketing spend and activity for us is likely to simply carry on as normal, with just a slight err of caution and more emphasis on contracts and terms and conditions.
RS: As with major news issues like this there does tend to be an immediate downturn in consumer response. This war more so than ever before is being played out live in front of us, we continue to watch it unfold hour by hour in our living rooms. As such the opportunity to communicate effectively to consumers is reduced along with their receptiveness.
How will it effect marketing budgets? Will it effect the media advertisers use?
SN: I think that if a marketing budget has been agreed for the year it is likely to remain in tact, however if new marketing budgets are being negotiated they might be revised downwards (as they say!). I’m not sure it will effect any mediums, but we would certainly be very careful about any messages that we are sending out, to make sure they are not taken in the wrong way, or seen as disrespectful when soldiers and civilians are losing their lives. For FMCG particularly I would also be worried about using mediums that appeared to be very extravagant or superficial, in the current climate.
LW: In our case it has not affected the budget nor has it affected the media we use. Unless the war takes a dramtic international turn I don’t forsee great changes being made. Budgets are already tight so I have to stick to what I know is guaranteed to drive the revenue – no change there then because of the war!
RS: It will have some short term impact on budgets depending upon the industry. For some it might be an immediate opportunity but for the majority I think it will be a time to delay certain projects and spend to monitor the situation. Perhaps news channel media might have an influx of enquiries?
How do you think Tony Blair has ‘marketed’ the need for war?
SN: Quite poorly. No matter what your personal politics, people generally have faith in Tony Blair as a man who wants to do the right thing and has integrity, even if you don’t agree with him. I felt that the British public were looking to him for an explanation, they thought that there were sound reasons in there somewhere but they were never described sufficiently. In the end the public lost patience waiting for a good reason, and assumed that instead it was a personal crusade of his own. That is why the “not in my name” protests have such strength, they have a resonance.
LW: I don’t think his team has done a good job in getting his message across to certain segments of the population. Thanks to the sophistication of media communications today he would always have an uphill struggle – reporters that focus on pockets of harrowing stories rather than backing the main case for war have not helped. The majority of the population have rarely experienced war and have grown up learning the savageness of World War I and II – most don’t understand that whilst no war can be good, its now a different kettle of fish, and its that message Blair has failed to communicate.
RS: I think that Tony Blair has done a good job at marketing the need for war. But I would add that he has not been helped by his American counterpart and Bush’s reluctance to travel beyond his national borders to negotiate and market.
What could Mr Blair have done differently?
SN: If you look at it in straight marketing terms, I would not have sold my message so much as attacked the competition. The regime has so many faults and instances of inhumanity that these could easily have been paralleled against what we would see as a ‘free’ society. I think the British public feel uncomfortable about global Americanisation. The UK sits right between America and Europe, geographically and idealogically, and Blair should have had a foot in both camps striding the Atlantic playing the honest broker. That would have given him huge power and influence, I think he jumped into the American camp too early. As far as Blair’s image is concerned, the American ‘lap dog’ will persist for a while because of this.
LW: As a leader he could have made more personal appearances on national television and calling on leaders of the opposition to do the same. He could have ensured all his team were behind him at the start. He could have stated his case more clearly why he backs America so strongly. He could have done a lot of things with hindsight.
RS: It would be easy to criticise his actions and state things with the benefit of hindsight, but on the whole I think that he has done ok. I think that he could have detailed the case against the Iraq regime more forcefully to the British people in the face of the anti war protests.