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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Firms Poke Fun at Crisis in Bid to Make a Sale




Strike out at Russia's economic turmoil by taking a vacation on the Black Sea. Bask in the glow of pre-crisis prices while sipping on a Bye-Bye Kiriyenko cocktail.


This is what a flurry of new advertisements are suggesting crisis-weary consumers do to fight back at the financial nightmare that has left the ruble devaluated, the banking system paralyzed and many would-be customers counting their dwindling savings at home.


Immediately after the storm hit in mid-August, many companies slashed prices or closed their doors as they reeled from the shock. But now many have decided that simply lowering prices or waiting is not enough: Companies are saying that to keep customers and attract new ones they need to treat the crisis with a touch of optimism and humor.


The resulting ads have been wry and witty f and all urge consumers to put the crisis behind them and savor life anew.


"Knock out the crisis," urges the Radisson Lazurnaya hotel on the Black Sea in an ad about cut-rate prices for doubles.


"Forget about the crisis, let's get to work!" blares an radio ad for Probiznesbank.


Get "a little anti-crisis comfort," suggests the American Dental Care clinic in an ad announcing discounts on teeth cleaning.


Restaurants have also jumped on the crisis marketing bandwagon, with many calling for diners to try out crisis or anti-crisis menus that offer meals and drinks at discounted prices.


The Montana Bar & Grill has placed a sandwich board outside the front entrance, inviting passersby to "Remember life before the crisis!"


Manager Natalya Radova said the restaurant is serving up entrees at pre-crisis prices.


"Our prices are as low as they can be, and we are always studying the costs. The most important thing now is to raise people's spirits and attract new customers," Radova said.


The Mesto Vstrechy bar and club also has kept prices low in a bid to hang onto customers, but it has gone one step further: Customers can laugh back at the turmoil by ordering a "Bye-Bye Kiriyenko" (Martini bitter, strawberry liquor and grapefruit juice) or an "Impeachment" (cranberry vodka and orange juice) cocktail for $3 each.


"For a while f three or four days f everyone was in a trance," said Alexei Sokolov, media director at Mesto Vstrechy.


"We decided it was important to help put our clients in a better mood by helping them look at the crisis with some humor, while having some fun ourselves," he said.


Among those hit the hardest by the crisis are the nation's banks. And although many have closed their doors as they struggle to come up with anti-crisis steps, Probiznesbank is running the radio ad campaign urging clients to "Forget about the crisis, let's get to work!"


"We started the commercial because we thought that even though everyone is caught up in the crisis, they can't go on being disappointed forever," bank spokeswoman Yekaterina Ilvolvskaya said. "While we live in such times, there are still some isles of stability. There are people and companies that are working normally, like our bank for example."


Another bank, Investsberbank, feels likewise and is promising depositors "seven anti-crisis measures." Ads say these steps include same-day settlements and assistance to clients reclaiming savings from other banks.


Companies that use the crisis theme in their ads feel they are following the right path. They say the word "crisis" is enough to alert consumers that the ad is new and the company is still alive and kicking. If the ads don't evolve to mirror the crisis, they say, people may think that the company is bankrupt and the ads had been paid for before the storm struck.


While many businesses turned to crisis campaigns in a bid to keep above water, some began using the ads as a way to expand their client base.


The Britain-based office interior company Vitalis, which had focused only on assisting downsizing businesses, recently started telling newspaper readers that their services offered "the future of life at work without crisis."


"We found out since the crisis that we should advertise that we are not only about office furniture," said Sarah Livingstone, a senior administrator at Vitalis.


"We haven't advertised much in the past," she said, adding that the company had counted on good word of mouth to draw customers.


She said the company has rapidly grown from serving its targeted market group to assisting businesses of every stripe.


The new strategy appears to be paying off. Livingstone said Vitalis has not lost money amid the crisis and business is booming.


f Andrew McChesney contributed to this report.