Dear Commons Community,
As millions of people around the globe watched the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl last night, a Colonial Willamsburg ad bothered some viewers for depicting the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11. The tourism spot celebrated a montage of defining moments in American history including a clip of 9/11. It aired just after halftime, and offended some for what they interpreted as a macabre use of 9/11 footage. As reported in The Daily News:
“Colonial Williamsburg CEO Mitchell Reiss had described the ad as a reflection on America’s past.
“The ad is meant to show that the America we know was not inevitable,” Reiss said in a statement introducing the video Wednesday. “It took courage. It took leadership. It took pain and sacrifice.”
The foundation stood by its advertisement shortly after the work aired Sunday.
“We understand and respect that some of the images depicted in the ad are jarring,” wrote Colonial Williamsburg Foundation spokesman Joe Straw in a statement to the Daily News. “However, the small data point of people who objected to some of the imagery in the ad does not represent the total viewership. Not even close.”
“All that is past is prologue. Our ad is meant to walk viewers backwards through time, challenging them to reflect on how our collective history and struggles shape who we are as Americans today,” Straw added. “We cannot forget our sacrifices or our tragedies even as we celebrate our accomplishments.”
The foundation’s ad included additional moments tinged with death: black and white footage of soldiers landing on Normandy Beach, service members carrying a wounded soldier and a funeral procession for a fallen veteran.”
I saw the ad and although I was surprised by it, I was not offended. For many Americans and especially New Yorkers, 9/11 is a tragic moment frozen in time that is still relatively recent for us. Advertisers need to be sensitive when invoking its images.