Tim Chitwood

It’s still way too soon to use 9/11 in advertising

by tim chitwood


Fifteen years later, it’s still too soon.

Too soon to take liberties with 9/11, either for entertainment or advertising.

Take the 9/11 Walmart display in Panama City Beach, where store workers stacked twin towers of Coke Zero cases against a backdrop of regular Coke cases positioned to form an American flag, with a banner that said, “We Will Never Forget.”

(“Gathering with friends and family to mark 9/11? Don’t forget the Coke.”)

This hit social media instantly, of course. Some who saw it were offended. Others were offended that some were offended. I thought it was funny, which offends everyone.

My first thought was, “Holy @#$%! Someone put a LOT of work into that.” If you’ve ever stacked anything — drink cases, pallets, hay, animal feed — you know how much time and energy it takes.

Besides that, someone had to put a lot of thought into it, too, to envision the regular Coke labels turned in alternating pattern to form the flag, and to figure out how many Coke Zero cases per layer it would take to build tall, thin, stable towers, because you sure as heck didn’t want customers to see them collapse.

You know someone must have thought this was brilliant, in theory: Genius marketing. Can’t wait to see the reaction.

Maybe the concept first came up in a meeting, where a supervisor sketched it on a whiteboard for the underlings, and all but one encouraged it:

“OK, so here’s what it will look like.”


“I love it!”

“Wait, are you sure you want to….”

“Shut up, Steve!”

“Yeah! We’re tired of your ‘can’t-do’ attitude, Steve!”

Then it went viral online, of course, and abruptly it was not as good an idea as it had seemed — and all that stacking for nothing, just to turn around and dismantle the display fast, before someone else tweeted a cellphone photo.

Well, one thing’s for sure: The banner was accurate. Those workers will never forget building twin towers out of Coke. It’s probably going into an employee training video.

The Walmart Coke stacks weren’t the only 9/11 commercial pitch to make the news last week. A mattress store in San Antonio, Texas, made a video plugging a “Twin Tower” mattress sale.

“What better way to remember 9/11 than with a Twin Tower sale?” a woman asked on the recording, at the end of which two guys behind her fell into stacked mattresses that toppled.

“Oh my God!” the woman exclaimed, adding, “We’ll never forget.”

True: They will never forget the ensuing death threats that made them close the store “indefinitely.”

Fifteen years later, we’re no more in danger of forgetting 9/11 than we were 10 years after or five or one. It is, after all, named for its date, like the Fourth of July with recurring nightmares. Those of us who saw it live on TV won’t skip any flashbacks. And no one who was there, or lost someone who was, needs a reminder.

Maybe some of those too young to remember 9/11 will forget it, but not likely: All they have to do is go online – like they’re not already – where they can watch it over and over again, like we did.

One youngster called it his generation’s Pearl Harbor. I guess that makes it mine, too.

I’m too young to remember Pearl Harbor, yet I know the significance of Dec. 7, every time it comes around.

And we don’t have to call it 12/7.