Budweiser pays homage to 9/11 with Clydesdale Horses ad

Publicizing a tragic event is a delicate calculation for American business. Do they recognize the opportunity and invite accusations of opportunism? Does he remain silent and risk appearing out of touch or unpatriotic? What is the line between commemoration and commercialization?

During a break from an afternoon football game on Saturday, Budweiser will mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with an advertisement showing a team of Clydesdale horses pulling a red Budweiser-branded wagon through Brooklyn Bridge and on a cobblestone street in Lower Manhattan. In the final image, the horses, standing on the grass of Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ, bow their heads in front of the city skyline, where the Tribute in Light installation is visible against the twilight sky.

The 60-second ad, which appeared on YouTube on Friday, is an updated version of Budweiser’s “Respect” ad, which first aired during the 2002 Super Bowl, five months after the attacks. The company re-released this ad to mark the 10th anniversary in 2011.

The new commercial will appear during the CBS airing of the college football game between the Air Force Falcons and the Navy Midshipmen and once again in the evening, on Fox, during the baseball game between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. .

“By releasing the film sparingly, we preserve the significance of the day and truly return the respect that those who have been lost deserve,” said Daniel Blake, vice president of marketing at Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch. InBev.

To make its first commercial referencing on September 11, shot shortly after the attacks, Budweiser received special permission from Congress and Rudolph Giuliani, then New York City’s mayor, to send a helicopter to capture Clydesdales Passage in the city and tilt towards the skyline of Liberty State Park.

The new version ends with a message in white letters on a black background as a moving melody plays: “Twenty years later, we will never forget. The company logo is then displayed for seven seconds, along with on-screen mentions of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and the Never Forget Fund. There is no voiceover narration.

“We obviously wanted to do it in a very subtle way, but it’s important to make sure people know where the spot is coming from and who is creating the movie itself,” Mr. Blake said.

Budweiser is one of the many companies that have produced or commissioned advertisements to commemorate this tragic day in American history. In 2011, there was a well-received commercial for State Farm, directed by Spike Lee, featuring children serenading the New York Fire Department with “Empire State of Mind.”

There were also a lot of goofs, such as the Wisconsin Golf Course which had special date-related prices. AT&T removed a Twitter post with an image of the Tribute in Light installation with the message “Never Forget” as part of a smartphone ad.

A Texas mattress store promoted a Twin Towers sale with an advertisement featuring two piles of mattresses that were knocked over. National headlines and widespread criticism caused the store to shut down. Parent company Miracle Mattress has issued an apology denouncing the ad as “thoughtless and rude.”

Businesses that attempt to cope with tragedy, in the hopes of exploiting themes of unity and hope, run the risk of triggering feelings of rage and loss, said Cait Lamberton, professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. The anniversary of September 11 is particularly tricky, as emotions have become complicated after years of war and trauma.

“It’s a bit safer when it’s something newer, because there’s a much better idea of ​​what unified storytelling is,” Professor Lamberton said. “For that, the story is much more fragmented. “

But amid the pandemic and a nationwide reckoning on racism, U.S. businesses have been more willing to try and connect with potential customers on the issues of the day.

“Brands that today fail to recognize a massive common tragedy run the risk of appearing blind or apathetic in the face of the suffering of much of the country,” said Professor Lamberton.

This year, as TV networks and streaming platforms air 9/11 anniversary specials, many viewers complain that the programs boil down to upsetting commercials in the context, like a spot for the service. Sling TV streaming video that begins with a nervous- looking flight attendant asking if anyone on board knows how to fly a plane.

The ad was withdrawn Thursday, said Ted Wietecha, spokesperson for Dish Network, the parent company of Sling TV. The company has apologized to viewers, he said in an email.

“The timing and placement of this particular announcement shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “While we use keyword blocking on digital ad purchases, for TV and streaming, we have the ability to block ads from showing on specific stations and times of the day. “

MSNBC premiered the commercial-free documentary “Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11” this week. A spokesperson said in an email that “the importance of story and content far outweighed any marketing of this program,” adding that the network may consider selling ad space on repeat broadcasts. .

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