Wed, May 07, 2003 - Page 10 News List

SARS-linked advertising grows as case numbers rise

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-related advertising is on the rise as companies look to capitalize on consumer concern over the disease, industry sources said yesterday.

"With SARS rampant around the nation, more and more products are linked directly or indirectly to fighting SARS," an account executive of Dentsu (Tai-wan) Inc (台灣電通) said.

The total volume of ads, however, did not significantly increase because of SARS related advertisements, said the executive, who asked to remain anonymous.

"They were afraid of appearing to be profiteering from SARS, but I believe SARS has created considerable profits for some of these companies," she said.

Newspapers and TV ads are plugging products to combat the disease, including vitamins, air purifiers, health food and hand-washing products.

Lu Chia-yu (呂嘉猶), spokesman for local cable TV station TVBS, acknowledged that the station is airing many ads related to SARS or anti-SARS commodities. But the total ad volume is holding steady, since some SARS-hit industries such as hotels and travel agencies, have largely cut their advertising budgets, Lu said.

The advertising department of the Chinese-language Liberty Times, however, said SARS-related product ads have recently increased by 20 percent. The Taipei Times is part of the Liberty Times Group.

ING Antai Life Insurance Co (安泰人壽) has run ads recently that encourage a traditional Chinese greeting of clasping one hand over the other to avoid shaking other people's hands. The company says it ran the ad to promote awareness of public hygiene and that it cost 15 to 20 percent of its annual advertising budget.

"Our business didn't grow due to the fear of SARS," said Ingrid Chen (陳姿英), ING Antai's corporate communication manager.

"Some of our customers have extended their insurance coverage for potential SARS contamination, but the travel insurance business is dropping due to fewer and fewer people going abroad," she said.

Meanwhile, Consumers' Foundation (消基會) secretary general Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏) has urged the public not to be taken in by false claims since there is no concrete evidence showing such products fight SARS.

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