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9/11 anniversary advertising -- appropriate or exploitative?

September 12, 2011 | 11:45 am


The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on Sunday had advertisers stepping gingerly.

Many companies chose to eschew commercials, instead posting simple notes on websites or social network profiles.

Wal-Mart put up a photo of the American flag on Facebook — a post liked by more than 42,000 people. It also garnered nearly 2,000 comments, including one from Trina Littlefield Stratman: “Thank you for the flag, not an advertisement today.”

Some businesses put out “tribute” advertisements. Budweiser created a television spot featuring its team of Clydesdale horses trotting toward New York and then kneeling toward the city. State Farm and director Spike Lee assembled a group of New York schoolchildren and filmed them serenading local firefighters with Alicia Keys’ song “Empire State of Mind (Part II).”

More than 450 digital billboards owned by Clear Channel Outdoor observed an hour and 17 minutes of  silence Sunday. The company ran memorial ads once a minute for the rest of the day.

The terror attacks have always been tricky for advertisers to navigate.

One older spot from MTV shows a starving child on the Brooklyn Bridge with the World Trade Center on fire in the background and the caption “the world united against terrorism. It should also be united against ... HUNGER.” Consumers went nuts over that one, and most not in a good way.

Days ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had to perform quick cosmetic surgery on a television campaign ad originally featuring an opponent’s corporate jet headed toward the Manhattan skyline. The current spot features just the plane.

What do you think of 9/11 advertising? Is it appropriate or exploitative?



Sept. 11 remembered in Los Angeles

10 years after 9/11, the airline industry is looking up

-- Tiffany Hsu

Videos: (top) Budweiser's 9/11 tribute.

(bottom) State Farm's 9/11 tribute.