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Sandy ads: Good, bad and ugly

Last week Hurricane Sandy dealt a blow of death, destruction, and disruption. Marketers, of course, wanted in on the action. I saw quite a few ads reacting to the storm—some with greater success than others.

Rather than gathering an exhaustive catalog of Sandy-related advertising, I thought I’d share three typical examples. Strategies varied. Many, many companies helped out during the storm, and some used advertising to show off what they were doing. Some businesses specifically advertised supplies and services people might need following the storm. And finally, some brands just ran crass Hurricane Sandy promotions.

Keep in mind: Because Sandy hit New York City, it went straight to the heart of America’s marketing and advertising industry. You can assume every person involved in creating and placing these ads was affected by the storm. At minimum, they probably had to interact with some of their colleagues remotely because of transportation difficulties. In a worst case, they might have suffered serious damage to their homes or workplaces. Given these crazy circumstances, let’s see what people came up with!

1. Good: The Container Store

Container Store Hurricane Sandy

Here’s an email I got today. Notice how serious The Container Store is in its language describing the storm. “Devastating,” “close communication,” “greatest need” are all words that convey gravity in a crisis. There’s also no selling going on here. This bit of marketing uses the storm for a philanthropy play. It sounds earnest and true, and will probably make you feel good about the brand. Nice.

2. Bad: Macy’s

Macy's Hurricane Sandy Ad

In newspapers and on TV, Macy’s is pitching a Hurricane Sandy sale. You can see their “Hurricane Relief Pass” that gets you a 20% discount on clothes (with the usual laundry list of exclusions). What are they thinking?

On one hand, Macy’s is a cultural cornerstone that has been here for generations, and has credibility in the storm zone. I wouldn’t be surprised if Macy’s and their employees are doing commendable work behind the scenes to help with the recovery.

On the other hand, Macy’s runs a sale every week. To promote this sale in connection with the hurricane feels disingenuous and opportunistic. I hate this.

3. Ugly: Major World

And here’s your typical, horrible local car dealership ad—with a hurricane spin. Gross, right?

But I can say something good about this ad: It’s genuine. This didn’t come from a smarty-pants copywriter who researched what kinds of language resonate with people affected by a disaster. Rather, it sounds like it came from some son-of-a-gun in Queens who wants to sell me a car.

In a way, it’s comforting that nobody at Major World is wringing hands over how to be sensitive. This ugly ad does far more than the others to help us get back to normal. And hey… There’s one way to get some gas!

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Marketing

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