Brands, be careful. People have asked "what, too soon?" as joke-punchline for years now, but when it comes to shilling with images of the WTC in NYC, it's always too soon. Attempting to acknowledge todays anniversary of the Sept 11 attack, AT&T ran the tweet above. Depicting a hand holding a smartphone, which in turn depicted the WTC memorial, the image came off as shilling smartphones rather than paying respects. After being bombarded with upset replies, AT&T wised up and tweeted this;
We apologize to anyone who felt our post was in poor taste. The image was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy.
— AT&T (@ATT) September 11, 2013
It was "solely meant", sure. That's why the cellphone is shown so clearly.
As important as today is for many individuals, it's important for brands to remember that they are not people, and sometimes the best thing is really to butt out of the conversation. AT&T's services were used that day, but do you really want to remind people that some loves ones last calls were placed on your network? Do you? Also, there are those that think phone service in general performed very poorly that day, with network disconnects as everyone in the city tried to make calls at the same time, trying to find out if their family members were OK. Do you really want to remind people of that? Do you?
But wait, what's the difference between the photo above and the tower being built framed in the same which AT&T posted last year on Sept 11? Tone. 'Standing tall' sounds hopeful and the image looks to the future. This is why you hire copywriters, people. Both are showing off the phones ability to show an image, more than anything else. Here's a case of borrowed interest that you really don't want to borrow.