Americans resent crass AT&T 9/11 tweet


“Tomorrow is my Twitter Christmas,” comedian and retweeter Joe Mande tweeted September 10, no doubt in anticipation of lots of advertisers’ 9/11 commemorative messages.

He wasn’t disappointed, but lots of Americans were – by an AT&T tweet whose perceived crassness generated so many complaints that the mobile phone company had to pull it, according to a September 11 Advertising Age report:

Marketers including AT&T are getting schooled on the fact that jumping in on the social conversation around national tragedies is not the safest arena for real-time marketing.

A handful of brands are being smacked around today for posting 9/11 commemoration tweets perceived as inane at best and insensitive at worst. AT&T received the brunt of the outrage after tweeting a picture of the beams of light shooting up from the Twin Towers site, captured in the screen of a phone that’s poised to take a photo, with the text “Never Forget.”

Buzzfeed put it much more succinctly: “The reactions have been a resounding and unanimous ‘ew.'”

“AT&T,” they headlined, “Has Made Without A Doubt The Tackiest 9/11 Memorial On The Internet.” [capitalization in the original]

Consumers who tweeted back agreed unanimously that “This is not a time for an Oreo moment.”

  • “Really?” Chris Moody tweeted.
  • “I didn’t even think about how cheesy that was,” Chris Moody chipped in
  • “How dare you?” Joe Manna complained. “You’re using this tragedy to ADVERTISE?”
  • Lauren Indvik called it “not an occasion for product placement.”
  • Matthew Rex, Sam Biddle and Andy Cobb were a bit more forthright, tweeting, “that is so f—–g tacky,” “F–K YOU,” and “F———–k you.”

Within an hour, AT&T took the offending image down from Twitter. Also from their Facebook and Instagram pages, where they’d proudly posted it.

In one of those typical no-apology apologies, they tweeted at 1:18 PM, “We apologize to anyone who felt our post our post was in poor taste. The image was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy.” [emphasis added]

All over the lot

AT&T wasn’t the only advertiser to use product placements in a 9/11 tweet – just the only one to get nailed for it.

  • NASCAR showed a closeup of a hand holding up a small American flag in the midst of a filled race-track stadium.
  • The Dallas Cowboys showed a football player holding an American flag in the middle of the gridiron with cheerleaders standing by. (Cheerleaders? For 9/11?)
  • Marriott announced that “in remembrance of those we lost on 9/11,” their hotels “will provide complimentary coffee and mini muffins from 8:45-9:15am.” Donating the cost of the coffee and mini muffins to a charity that helps 9/11 victims’ and first responders’ children, for example, would’ve been far more useful and less cheesy.
  • Sandals Resorts played off their love-based advertising theme to tweet, “One love, one heart. Today we honor the resilience of the American people.”

Other advertisers’ tweets were more respectful and tasteful (though equally cliched):

  • Cheesecake Factory: “Forever in our hearts. Never forgotten.”
  • Burger King: “Taking a day to reflect on all of those affected by 9/11. #NeverForget, always stay strong!” At least they had the sense to use “affected” instead of the more and more commonly used “impacted.”
  • White Castle: “We’re taking the time to honor today and remember those that we lost.” Yeah, all the time it takes to write a 144-character tweet.
  • Macy’s: “Hold your family. Reflect on the sunset. Look forward to the sunrise. Hold your head high. Imagine a better world. And #NeverForget 9/11/2001″
  • Boar’s Head: “We’ll never forget. #neverforget #September 11″
  • Walgreen’s: “We will always remember” with an American-flag photo.
  • Christian Mingle: “Thinking of all the patriots who gave their lives unexpectedly 12 years ago today.”
  • Beretta: “Observing a moment of remembrance of 9/11″
  • Smith & Wesson: “Never forget” with a US Coast Guard photo
  • Sizzler Restaurants: “Today we honor the victims and heroes of 9/11.” Hopefully with something more meaningful than free mini muffins.
  • Chick-fil-A: “Today we remember and honor all those lost and impacted” –which all too many people were, literally – “by the tragedies of 9/11.”
  • Red Lobster: “We want to take today to remember those that [sic] protect and serve us each and every day. Thank you.”
  • Huggies: “Today we remember the victims of the tragedy that struck our country and salute the brave man & women who risked their lives to save others.” At least they learned something about not insulting their audience from their disastrous “Dad test” campaign.
  • Waffle House: “#NeverForget” Did they work all night thinking that one up?

Well, at least most of them avoided the kind of obnoxious social-media gaffes that Jonathan Adler, American Apparel, the Gap and Urban Outfitters committed during Hurricane Sandy.

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