There are times that advertising simply goes too far. It is one thing to mention an instance or something that happened, but to be as bold as to use it for your own advertising purposes is crossing the line. Everyone around the world knows the significance of the date 9/11.
The Tribute in Light is an art installation of 88 searchlights placed next to the site of the World Trade Center to create two vertical columns of light in remembrance of the September 11th attacks. It is produced annually by The Municipal Art Society of New York.
On Wednesday, it seems that AT&T thought that it would be a good idea to use the observance of the anniversary of 9/11 to promote its smartphones. On Wednesday AT&T displayed an image of the Tribute in Light on the display of a BlackBerry Z10.
This was used as a tweet on 9/11. It was considered to be a tasteless attempt to observe the 12th anniversary. What it really was, in fact, was an advertisement for the smartphone. In a Forbes article, this is comparable to something like Nike tweeting a photo giving the appearance that the lights where holding up a basketball shoe.
The tweet was taken offline roughly an hour after a backlash from other Twitter users. This also made AT&T realize that it should remove the ad it placed on its Facebook page. AT&T is not the first to use an event to try and promote a product.
Recently Dodge had a similar experience. In a four second YouTube video, the car maker advertised the speed of its Dodge Viper. Unfortunately, it did this by comparing it to the speed of the meteor that exploded over Russia.
The meteor exploded over Russia’s Ural Mountains with the force of an atom bomb. It injured somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 people. The Dodge ad said “Yeah … it’s that fast. The SRT Viper outraces that meteor :)”
This is the type of self-promotion that angers people, and rightfully so. While AT&T included the phrase “Never Forget” with the image, it doesn’t take away from the fact that instead of paying homage to the disaster of the situation, it was promoting a smartphone.
So many tragedies can happen in our lifetimes. When it comes to something like 9/11 the line between what is and isn’t tasteful is rather thick. AT&T didn’t just cross the line, it jumped to the other side of it.
Edited by Blaise McNamee