AT&T put a stop on telemarketing calls for at least 24 hours. Lockheed Martin planned to unveil a print ad campaign showing support for the troops. General Motors has banned travel, except with special permission, to about 80 countries, mostly in the Middle East and Asia.
Just one day into a war with Iraq, businesses big and small were maneuvering to implement new procedures to protect their employees, reassess their investment and expansion plans, and reformulate marketing plans for proper tone.
Investors, meanwhile, reacted positively to the war news. The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose for the seventh consecutive day, and the Nasdaq composite index rose for the third day in the past four.
For financial industry companies dependent on investors, the start of the war -- and the possibility the invasion of Iraq will succeed quickly -- brings with it the hope that the stock market will cease its downward slide. But traders and hedge-fund managers are staying cautious until they can get a better sense of how the hostilities will play out.
At T. Rowe Price in Baltimore, Andrew Brooks, who heads equity trading, was warning his staff to be careful and not take big risks on scant information. "Look for confirmation. Don't get hoodwinked into doing something based on a one-line [news item] coming out," he said. "It's a treacherous time to trade. If you are particularly bold, you could be particularly stupid."
Perhaps the most visible impact of the war on businesses so far has been that a broad array of companies temporarily halted their mass-marketing campaigns yesterday, pulling ads off of network television, newspaper pages, magazines and even e-mail as the Iraq war commenced. Corporate officials say they wanted to show respect for the troops.
Home Depot Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., EarthLink Inc., American Express Co. and AT&T Corp. are among those that said their lighthearted advertisements may be inappropriate amid the nation's somber mood.
"This is an incredibly pensive and delicate time," said Karen Gough, executive vice president for marketing for Atlanta-based EarthLink. She said the company has pulled its advertising for at least a week and possibly longer and had already reviewed its campaigns to err on the side of sensitivity, taking special care to avoid language such as providing Internet connections at "rocket speeds," or offering services that will "bomb" spam.
Telecommunications giant AT&T halted its advertising and marketing Wednesday night "out of respect for the military activities," said spokesman Gary Morgenstern. The company also said that it would pause all of its marketing, including telemarketing, for at least 24 hours.
Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. will be one step ahead of most companies today when it unveils a print advertising campaign showing support for the troops. It had been prepared specifically in case of war.
"We said that if conflict breaks out, if war starts, we are going to certainly want to pay tribute to our armed forces. If diplomacy had worked or whatever, we wouldn't have put them in," said spokesman Thomas Jurkowsky.
True to form, many businesspeople focused on the numbers and attempted what some believe is impossible: to quantify in dollars before the fact the impact of something so unpredictable as war.
One study offers this scenario: If it ends quickly, in a few weeks or so, growth in sales will be 8 percent over the next 12 months. If it drags out for longer than six months, sales will be flat. If a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon is used during the war or if there's another large-scale act of domestic terrorism? Negative -- minus 8 percent -- sales.
"The longer it takes the more is lost economically," said Campbell Harvey, a Duke University finance professor who conducted the study in conjunction with Financial Executives International.
Others took a more fluid view. "I don't think anybody has a clue," said Craig J. Barrett, chief executive of Intel Corp., a Silicon Valley company that is the world's largest chipmaker.