AT&T delete Sept 11 tweet after being bombarded with upset replies for an hour

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;

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.

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coperightor's picture

A simple tweet honoring the service people would have been adequate. I think you're right about how the second image is empowering therefore more tasteful, but it's really a shame that no one at AT&T had the foresight to see that exploiting a tragedy isn't good for business.

kidsleepy's picture

It's weird that with the exception of "standing tall," it's essentially still a product shot two years in a row and yet this time it gets backlash.

I still think it's all case specific and how you do it. A lot of brands tweeted out their respects today-some did it well, without feeling like they're trying to sell shit. Yes they're still brands but they're American Brands. Some did it in a much more respectful way. This could just be me, but at think point it's not much different than saying "This goes out to our troops on Memorial Day." It just depends on how you do it and the intention. But i don't think at this point it's still "off limits." it just needs to be thought out. Remember too the target market. White Castle and Dunkin Donuts are heartland brands. I would assume the people who actually frequent these places are okay with it. It's just the snarky assholes on buzzfeed who don't get there that want to tell everyone how to behave.

Dabitch's picture

Agreed, that it's both brand and case specific. Brands got involved today with varying success.

Boards Head tried their hand at it with a giant american flag photo on Instagram.

Smith & Wesson tried this one;

Waffle House;


American Express: