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10 Advertisers Exploiting the Sept. 11 Attacks to Push Their Brands

Brace yourself for an onslaught of Sept. 11 memorial ads as we approach the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the U.S., most of these ads will be respectful, patriotic and (hopefully) muted in tone.

Not so in foreign countries, where American history and 9/11 are simply another set of spectacular events whose interest can be borrowed to sell everything from mattresses to car headlights to the History Channel to water sanitation charities (click to enlarge image).

Next: Begin gallery of Sept. 11 ads»

USA Discounters: "The Declaration of Independence"

This U.S. ad was produced specifically for the upcoming 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Don't get too teary, though -- USA Discounters is actually a subprime consumer credit lender that makes its money charging interest, and isn't terrifically popular among some members of the military. Agency: Levenson and Hill, Dallas.

Next: The official mattress of Sept. 11»

Ortobom mattresses: "Choose your mattress well"

Leave it the Brazilians to come up with the most offensive idea possible (they have a history of this sort of thing). It's your lousy mattress, not your memories of Sept.11, that are keeping you up at night, according to this company. Agency: Giovanni+DraftFCB, Rio de Janeiro.

Next: Spot the mistake»

El Pais: Spot the mistake

The Colombian newspaper is trying to make a point about how people who think they know the facts often don't. In this ad, the position of the attack on the tower and the type of plane are both wrong. And, of course, the TransAmerica building is in San Francisco, not New York. Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Colombia.

Next: Lazy visual shorthand metaphor»

CoBis: "Some day your computer may become a target"

In foreign countries, Sept. 11 has become a lazy visual shorthand for "disaster." In this ad, IT security company CoBis suggests your hard drive is a World Trade Center waiting to happen. Agency: LG&F.

Next: The missing memorial»

WTC Memorial Foundation: Build the Memorial

One of very few 9/11 campaigns that won't offend, Saatchi produced a set of ads noting subtly that the memorial to the disaster has yet to be built, years after 2001. New Yorkers will be charmed to note that this image bears a strong resemblance to the back of the Post Office building that abuts ground Zero. Bravo. Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, New York.

Next: 9/11 as a doodle»

History Files Magazine: "History in brief"

Surely there was more to the Sept. 11 disaster than plane-meets-building? Not according to History Files. If you think this one-shot summation of the events of 2001 is bad, then you're going to hate their ad featuring the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Agency: Graffiti BBDO, Bucharest, Romania

Next: Mini, the official car of 9/11»

Mini: "Let there be Xenon"

Arguably, there's an excuse for news media brands to use Sept. 11 in their advertising. It was the most significant U.S. public event of the decade, after all. But automobiles with bright headlights? Effective but tasteless. Agency: Taxi, Toronto.

Next: Sept. 11 vs. smoking»

ASH New Zealand: "Tobacco related deaths"

DDB New Zealand pitched the ad account of the anti-smoking group ASH with this ad.* It was trying to make the reasonable point that if all deaths from smoking occurred on the same day we'd take tobacco fatalities a lot more seriously. But the execution suggested that the choice to smoke is somehow similar to working in the wrong building in New York, which is why it left such a bad taste. ASH never approved the ad but DDB published it anyway and then entered it into an award show without ASH's permission. "My organization had to do some serious reputation management as a result of sloppiness by an agency that I certainly won't be trusting again," ASH director Ben Youdan told BNET. Agency: DDB New Zealand.

*Correction: This item originally said incorrectly that the ad was published with ASH's permission. Apologies for the error.
Next: The worst Sept. 11 ad ever?»

Courrier: "Learn to anticipate"

Easily one of the worst 9/11 ads ever: It relies on a "joke" about how the towers should have been shorter. And that image is coupled with a cover of Courrier, the French newsweekly, showing protesting Palestinians -- drawing a spurious link between Al Qaeda's attacks on the U.S. and the conflict in Israel. This ad was published in September 2010. Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, France.

Next: Did something important happen on Sept. 11?»

The Cape Times: "Know all about it"

Another news brand jumps on the bandwagon. The problem here --aside from the usual question of taste -- is that South Africa's Cape Times is suggesting that you might have missed Sept. 11 if you hadn't been reading the paper. That questions answers itself, and not to the Times' benefit. Agency: Lowe Bull, Cape Town.


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