Another year has passed and, once again, I feel compelled to write about 9/11. Last year, I wrote about 9/11 as contested commemoration and warned against the potential perils of framing contests (read here https://doubletakesociology.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/911-as-contested-commemoration/). What struck me about this year’s contested commemoration was that, for the first time in relatively large numbers, marketers used the tragedy for their own purposes — and with a great deal of success. In his piece for The New York Times, Stuart Elliot reports that a survey conducted by Ace Metrix, which measures the effectiveness of commercials, found that commercials with 9/11 themes scored well above the average scores for commercials in their categories in terms of, among other things, likability ( http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/consumers-approved-of-many-911-spots/). State Farm, Verizon, Chevrolet, and Budweiser all scored high marks with consumers with their 9/11 themed ads.
Given their commercial success, we can expect more of such ads in the future.
Attaching a product to American traditions and events is not a new practice. Coca Cola, for instance, has cleverly written itself into history (just go to the World of Coke) and provided iconic images of how Coke and American life go hand in hand. However, the idea that a national tragedy and the emotions surrounding it may be used to generate profits makes me more than a little uncomfortable. Of course, in light of the raves over Budweiser’s update of the Clydesdale ad, I may be in the minority.