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Advertising Conflict

SOMEONE the other day referred to the Gulf war as the ``CNN war'' - an oblique tribute to the Cable News Network's outstanding coverage, as well as a recognition of its ubiquity. CNN appears to be one of the main communication links among political leaders in this unhappy conflict.

Precisely because CNN's viewing audience is up substantially and accolades have been pouring in, the network has decided to mount a broadened advertising campaign - to acquaint Americans with its news coverage. National Public Radio has announced that it too will promote its war coverage in newspapers around the US.

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There can be no denying the importance of conveying as much accurate information as possible about the war.

News organizations are coming to realize that reporting this conflict is going to be difficult, not just because of the logistical challenges and the cultural nuances involved, but also because war information has proved hard to come by. Most of it comes through Pentagon briefings.

News organizations and advertising agencies surely have a special responsibility not to use the backdrop of the Gulf war for advertising ends.

So far, the ad agencies and most US corporations have shown a reluctance to do so.

Even the larger defense contractors, who could be expected to be pleased with the performance of their high-tech weapons, have been holding back. The danger, in an age when television is the main provider of entertainment as well as news, is that the Gulf war could become a sort of instant drama.

Public-service announcements about scheduling of war news can be useful.

Still, the advertising community will surely want to keep advertising and the war separate. Nobody would want to appear to be profiting, even inadvertently, from the war.

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