Twin towers 911 in advertising. Not new, so why the backlash this time?

Scarred adgrunts know that the image of burning twin towers have been used in advertising before. Why the backlash this time? Was it because AdFreak posted about it? Was it simply the timing?

Humo magazine made what was dubbed the most offensive ad ever a few years back, a title Humo Magazine seemed a little proud of. Other images in the campaign were on the same level, to fit with the tagline "reading HUMO can have serious consequences, in one ad Saddam Hussein was so captivated by the mag he didn't notice that the US army was right behind him invading his little hideout.

Have there been others? Sure, some ad agencies like to use the dramatic images of the burning twin towers to compare death tolls, as a way of making much larger numbers pain and suffering more tangible to the viewer. Example; MTV Magazine twin towers vs Aids, famine, and poverty in 2003.

ASH smoking kills more than terrorism is another angle on the "compare numbers" idea.

But they weren't the only ones to light up cigarettes and evoke the towers, Khaleej Times in United Arab Erimates did the same in 2007.

The Chilean Bic Wite Out ad campaign that we had to remove as Bic US HQ were quite upset by it, and the TBWA Chile ad agency got cold feet after the fact, was probably the best example of off-brand shocking for shocks sake WTC 9/11 imagery ad. What did it really say about Wite out? Great for censorship?

For Nature every day is 9/11 states this poster showing two trees being 'attacked'. This was posted to Fredrik Samuels blog in January of 2007, and he credits the ad to CLM BBDO, Paris.

Lego of all brands, did a campaign with the positive end message "Rebuild it" showing the dust cloud post WTC attack as their image choice. This makes little sense considering the target market - kids. When the ads first appeared on well known adblogs '06 they were credited to Saatchi & Saatchi China, later the team behind it, Black Wu and Darren Cheung, admitted that they were just pushing their own creativity and came up with dumb ideas, their managers at Saatchi had nothing to do with it.

CoBis used the visual similarity of motherboards to bustling cities to remind people that some day, your computer might be the target of an attack.

Before the terrorist attack on the twin towers, ads used the iconic Twin Towers as their "New York" image of choice quite often. Some of these ads seem in hindsight to be a little creepy, if not downright spooky. The PIA twin towers ad looks creepy no matter what.

One good thing came out of this uproar, and that is the One Show scam ad ban. International award shows will never be "fair" when, for example, one countries drug ad laws prevents the creatives from making campaigns like the Canadian Viagra work which won in Cannes this summer, but it will be at least a little more fair when all competing campaigns were actually vetted by a real client.

I still love the Cookie Monster, despite the image of him eating the WTC.

Adland® is supported by your donations alone. You can help us out by buying us a Ko-Fi coffee.
Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
Files must be less than 1 MB.
Allowed file types: jpg jpeg gif png wav avi mpeg mpg mov rm flv wmv 3gp mp4 m4v.
joelapompe's picture

Also found this one for your collection :

Publigeekaire's picture

Hi, I had the same idea in France a few days ago (written in French).

The title is : "When 9/11 inspires advertising".

Enjoy :

Dabitch's picture

Ha! Great minds think alike and all that. I know that there's some 911/WTC ads that I have forgotten and was pretty much expecting the thread to fill up with the missing examples - I was trying so hard to remember one more that I knew we had discussed here earlier. but finally gave up. And now I see you have it in your post - the El País ad! As I recall that was debated quite hotly at the time.

Though hey, not a bad one you showed us either Joelapompe - that goes with the number-comparison gang. I had totally forgotten about that one.

I bet there are more.

Dabitch's picture

Here's another one who wondered the same thing: Why this 911 ad in particular? How things catch on fire shows a bunch of examples and the one I find rather disturbing with its peaceful image, knowing what happened the very next day from Cape Times: "The world can change in a day"

Dabitch's picture
Neo's picture

That Hiroshima ad is disturbing.

Publigeekaire's picture

Oups, they did it again. Courrier International by Saatchi&Saatchi France. 2010.

Dabitch's picture

Yep, got the Courrier ads posted here: Courrier uses 9/11 twin towers "ducking" to sell newspapers.

AnonymousCoward's picture

These ads are all disrespectful and should be forbidden.