No TV ads on 9/11?
July 31, 2002 5:21 PM   Subscribe

No TV ads on 9/11? Media/TV critic Tunku Varadarajan of the Wall Street Journal thinks that the companies that have decided not to advertise on 9/11 is disingenuous and self-serving. Advertisers see it as not trying to be crassly commercial on a day of memorial. Regardless of what you think of the Dell dude and the other advertisers taking the day off, should 9/11/02 be commercial-free out of respect for those who lost their lives, or as Mr. Varadarajan suggests, more solemn tribute commercials? As long as advertisers aren't exploiting the tragedy like Cantor Fitzgerald/e-speed I could care less.
posted by birdherder (43 comments total)
Ooooh. Those e-speed commercials make me feel ill.
posted by ColdChef at 5:28 PM on July 31, 2002

Anything the advertising industry does is self-serving. That's the nature of it.

How about if advertising has zip to do with memorializing the events of that day? How about if they just keep on showing their normal crud and people memorialize the day (if they feel the need) without the assistance of the advertising industry?
posted by mccreath at 5:45 PM on July 31, 2002

<smug tivo owner>
Commercials? How quaint!
</smug tivo owner>
posted by electro at 5:50 PM on July 31, 2002

"Keep your eye on the bean, don't watch my hands...."
posted by rushmc at 6:33 PM on July 31, 2002

I just wanna have a day with no commercials. I don't care when it is.
posted by atom128 at 6:37 PM on July 31, 2002

No commercials on September 11th? Great. Perfect. This is one action by big business I completely aprove of. How could anyone have a problem with one commercial free day?
posted by bobo123 at 6:37 PM on July 31, 2002

I don't drink the stuff, but when I was a kid I used to like those Budweiser Christmas commercials (big horses pulling a wagon through snowy streets with Xmas decorations and Xmas music).

They could do something solemn and jingoistic and not be accused of anything terrible, and it would be talked about, which is successful advertising.

"Did you see that Oracle commercial with the cute babies?"
posted by planetkyoto at 6:40 PM on July 31, 2002

Watch for "This Commercial-Free Day brought to you by..." sponsorships.
posted by briank at 6:40 PM on July 31, 2002

This will only work if you don't use the ATM on 9/11 either.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:55 PM on July 31, 2002

It really isn't the advertiser, it is the network that needs the commercials to run on 9/11.

Pepsi won't go out of business if they don't advertise on 9/11 and there would be no falloff in sales. Fox News will lose $5million in revenue if they go commercial free.

If the programming will be so solemn, then the network shouldn't sell ad space.

briank: that already happens (at least at the program level)... The season premiere of 24 on Fox will be commercial free (brought to you by Ford). There won't be commercial breaks but there will be Ford commercials bookending the show...and every car will just happen to be Fords.
posted by birdherder at 7:16 PM on July 31, 2002

Did something happen on 9/11?
posted by xmutex at 7:39 PM on July 31, 2002

I just wanna have a day with no commercials. I don't care when it is.

you can have one every day: unplug the moron box and turn off the radio.
posted by dobbs at 7:42 PM on July 31, 2002

So if we get 9/11 off, can we please have the "official" national holidays as a break from commercials, too?

Perhaps no commercials on Xmas day/Dec 26th is too much to ask...
posted by manero at 7:50 PM on July 31, 2002

"Did something happen on 9/11?" A classic comment that pretty much sums it all up. The answer is of course: nothing. Nothing that Americans couldn't see coming. Who gives a rat's #!@ what the advertisers do or don't do...
posted by {savg*pncl} at 8:12 PM on July 31, 2002

This will only work if you don't use the ATM on 9/11 either.

I am a Bank of America customer and I feel almost insulted when the commercials play while the ATM is "processing" my transaction. I've found that by constantly changing the volume (just by drumming my fingers on the touchscreen) that it pauses the commercial. My little way of beating the system. Very little.
posted by zsazsa at 8:23 PM on July 31, 2002

At least the BofA commercials for crappy TNT shows are better than the commercials they had for Bank of America ATMs when I'm already a BofA customer using their ATM.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:56 PM on July 31, 2002

you can have [a day with no ads] every day: unplug the moron box and turn off the radio.

And stay off the web, and don't read eamil, and don't leave your house, and don't pick up your mail or answer the phone. Um, and keep your eyes closed.

That should do it.
posted by rusty at 9:14 PM on July 31, 2002

rusty: you can cut out the great majority of ads in your life just by cutting out radio and TV. The rest, I have found, are quite tolerable by comparison - it's easy to toss advertising mail (electronic or paper) without reading it. It's not "no ads", but it's close enough that I don't care.

What are the criteria for a Day So Horrible We Cannot Sully Its Memory With Ads? Horrible things have happened on every day of the year. Should we make an index of the great historical tragedies being cheapened by the use of advertising on their anniversaries?

I don't understand this grief-memorial culture that seems to have developed in the U.S. over the last decade or two. Every time a bunch of people die, other people start blathering about sacred ground and permanent memorials and Never Forgetting and whatnot. Well, life is sometimes tragic, and people die, and we move on. Memory is not permanent and we should be thankful for that. If we tried to remember and honor every tragedy we'd never get any living done.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:32 PM on July 31, 2002

If you could care less, why don't you?

Didn't we get enough commercial-free TV during the 9/11 and beyond news coverage? You know, there is a lot of effort that goes into producing free television, and I think the people who work on it deserve to be paid (by advertisers, if not by the people consuming their content).

By the way, I don't work on television, but I do believe in paying for what you get and getting what you pay for.
posted by hitsman at 9:56 PM on July 31, 2002

A comparable number of people died in America on December 7, 1941. Should we have no advertisements then? Why don't we pander to cry-baby Americans some more?

Anyone truly memorializing loved ones and friends that were killed on Sept. 11 will not be doing it by watching TV or listening to radio programs.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:29 PM on July 31, 2002

What happened decades ago is not the same as what happened a year ago. Whether you think it's right or wrong, pain fades over time even if memories do not. 9/11/03 is going to open a lot of fresh wounds for people.

As far as the advertising goes, I think this is more the result of advertisers fearing bad publicity rather than an act of solemn respect. We all know what programming is going to be for that whole day, so why would Dell want to risk throwing up that stupidly grinning Steven between clips of the towers falling? Even if it doesn't piss too many oversensitive people off, it's at least going to leave a bad taste in their mouths. Like someone said already, it's not going to affect their overall marketing strategies to skip a day, so they figure it's safer.

I agree with the WSJ writer that there is no ethical reason not to advertise - commerce is not a guilty act. But I also think Dell and the others are doing the right thing. It's not their purpose to make political statements. If staying off the air for one day might avoid even a small hit to the brand, then it's a no brainer.
posted by tirade at 11:10 PM on July 31, 2002

Thank you, Mars. I could not agree with you more. We wallow in tragedy and think of new ways to baste ourselves in what is already an ineradicable memory just to freshen our grief and stiffen our resolve. Like our resolve needs a bigger hard-on at this point.

And untimely, undeserved death conveys instant hero status. One day it will be an insult: "Yo, shut up or I'm gonna make a hero out of you, man..."
posted by umberto at 11:11 PM on July 31, 2002

Won't the US be carpet bombing Iraq by then?
posted by fullerine at 11:12 PM on July 31, 2002

Every time a bunch of people die...

I agree Mars, and umberto, but would add the word 'American' in between the words 'of' and 'people' to get the full flavour. Nothing wrong with that, of course, mourning the deaths of your countrymen above those of some foreigners somewhere, but this idea of not advertising on September 11 seems so uniquely American to me, I had to note it somehow.

fullerine : Between August 15th and October 5th, most likely. Pathetic, but probably true.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:40 PM on July 31, 2002

SOMEWHAT on subject, I've wondered since September 15th or so: on 9/11 did the pay channels like HBO/Showtime/Starz and/or cable channels like History, A&E, etc. interupt their programing and announce what was happening or switch in a news feed from somewhere?
posted by Mack Twain at 12:05 AM on August 1, 2002

I know all the Turner/Time Warner/AOL channels switched over to CNN.

I'm a TV junkie, but I think I'll be avoiding it that day. I already know how I feel about 9/11, I don't need to be told how I should feel by some sort of slick memorial programming.
posted by JoanArkham at 4:52 AM on August 1, 2002

Those e-speed commercials really are sick.

I wondered how much time would pass before advertisers started using 9/11 in their commercials. How then, how long before we get a Jerry Bruckheimer film on it?
posted by joedan at 5:00 AM on August 1, 2002

Mack Twain: I don't get any premium channels, but every channel I found on cable had some sort of news feed or solemn message. All of the Turner empire channels were showing CNN, of course. Even Home Shopping Network was showing a news feed. I think QVC just went off the air.
posted by zsazsa at 5:49 AM on August 1, 2002

Now, here's a strange question - Television racks up 15 minutes an hour in commercials. Programs aren't filmed for an hour broadcast - they film for 45 minutes. So, over the course of a 24 hour period...

15min * 24hrs = 360min /30min = 12

... are they gonna treat us to an additional 12 episodes of 'Friends' that day?
posted by Perigee at 5:50 AM on August 1, 2002

I am a Bank of America customer and I feel almost insulted when the commercials play while the ATM is "processing" my transaction.

Then why are you still a Bank of America customer? They won't make too much money off ATM commercials if they lose business as a result.
posted by Kellydamnit at 6:24 AM on August 1, 2002

i've read that only Fox Cable will be ad-free for the whole day, and other networks will only be ad-free for the evening specials on 9/11
....I wonder who will dare do a corporate sponsorship? Halliburton?
ExxonMobil? a chain of funeral homes?
posted by amberglow at 6:26 AM on August 1, 2002

should 9/11/02 be commercial-free out of respect for those who lost their lives

How about tv-free?
posted by tomplus2 at 6:36 AM on August 1, 2002

I believe a great many people have let their overriding cynicism get in the way of recognizing a legitimate tribute. It's much hipper to say everything sucks and "the man" is behind it all I know, but sometimes things ARE as they appear.

If anyone saw Howard Lutnick on television in the days following 9/11, you saw a man who was shaken down to his very core as a human being. Everytime I saw him having an emotional breakdown on TV I expected the next morning to hear of his suicide. It was painful to watch.

The Cantor Fitzgerald group is making incredible contributions to the families of those killed. Do you really think your employer, not your insurance company, but your employer, would pay for your family's health insurance for 10 years after your death? Would your employer, not your insurance company, give your family a minimum of $100,000 after your death?

Save your cynicism for someone who deserves it. If more companies had the social conscious of Cantor Fitzgerald this country, and likely the world, would be a much much better place.

I think the ads are a wonderful blend of compassion with capitalism. "Help us succeed so we can help these families more".
posted by Ynoxas at 7:29 AM on August 1, 2002

15min * 24hrs = 360min /30min = 12

Now's the time to rush 15-min short films on patriotic themes into production.
posted by D at 7:40 AM on August 1, 2002

Then why are you still a Bank of America customer?

The reason he's still a BofA customer is probably the same reason I switched to them: because they have ATMs freakin' everywhere, thereby allowing one to avoid lots of ATM fees, and because their electronic bill payment services and checking accounts are free assuming you keep a reasonable minimum balance or have direct deposit.

As far as I'm concerned, they're welcome to show a few ads here and there if that's what they need to do to have ten times the number of ATMs as any other bank.
posted by kindall at 9:29 AM on August 1, 2002

How about tv-free?

Yes. Play ball with your kids, go out to dinner, go to the library, take a walk in the park, etc. Make your own holiday, even if it's after you all get home from work. Make September 11 a night to reconnect with family, recharge, and take back control of your life.

You'll probably escape some horrible television anyway... solemn "We Remember" montages, interviews with families who lost members, footage of the buildings blowing up again and again and again. Why sit through that?
posted by kurumi at 10:16 AM on August 1, 2002

kurumi makes a wonderful point.

Commerce will go on as usual, but there's no reason we have to. Why pretend that our shallow TV-viewing habits be accomodated by every advertiser in existence? I intend to spend the evening with friends, quietly sitting and talking in their back yard.

It's a Thursday, by the way.
posted by dhartung at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2002

Mars wrote: I don't understand this grief-memorial culture that seems to have developed in the U.S. over the last decade or two. Every time a bunch of people die, other people start blathering about sacred ground and permanent memorials and Never Forgetting and whatnot.

Uh, this isn't new. It's kind of a part of humanity, the consecration of sacred ground and solemn comemoration of major loss and grief.

Sanctification of such things helps people move on, helps them feel as though the loss had a purpose.

You may call it bullshit, but there are bazillions of graves and other memorials to the fallen around the world that other people believe should be there.

You may choose to just forget and move on about those who have died, but I and others will continue to pay our respects, and remember.

I'm reminded of the most holy place I know of, the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington. It's a reminder of all who died so that you and I and lots of other people could have a better life.

That's something worth remembering, I think.

You might feel differently if you had lost friends or loved ones in a war.
posted by beth at 8:27 PM on August 1, 2002

Uh, this isn't new.

I disagree. I think what is new--and rather appalling--is the creation of a grief industry, formalizing the grief response well beyond the traditional rituals of various religions and regions and turning it into a crassly overt display rather than a heartfelt remembering. I am reminded of the culture that had women you could hire to come to a funeral and keen loudly in the back row, so that your friends would be sure to acknowledge the depth of your loss--and the fact that you were making the "proper" response to it.

While "grief," "regret," and "sorrow" can be quite genuine and deeply felt, that's not really what we're discussing here. What we're talking about is the crass commercialization and hijacking of human emotion in order to a) sell a product, b) improve ratings (thereby increasing profit), c) promote an individual agenda (political, social, or otherwise), and d) engage in absurd posturing (pretending a closer connection to victims of a distant tragedy than one enjoys, be it the death of Princess Di or those in the Twin Towers) and pretense of unearned emotion (superficial sentimentality is repugnant, and insulting to those with real cause for distress and grief). The difference between a genuine emotional reaction and grandstanding with an eye to the mirror (or camera). It's akin to those who go to a funeral to flirt, or to a memorial service to advertise or recruit.
posted by rushmc at 7:01 AM on August 2, 2002

It's akin to those who go to a funeral to flirt, or to a memorial service to advertise or recruit.

In the midst of death, we are in life. Or is it the other way around?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:13 AM on August 2, 2002

Just because we find such darker emotions to be distasteful, it doesn't stop them from being fair game for advertisers. Like it or not, advertising must utilize our emotional responses -- all of them – in order to be effective. This should not surprise anyone. Substitute "grief" with "joy" and you have your basic beer commercial, substitute "fear" you get smoke alarms.
posted by lilboo at 7:39 AM on August 2, 2002

I disagree. I think what is new--and rather appalling--is the creation of a grief industry

There is a significant portion of the US population given to actual, heartfelt, non-cynical, deep, and affecting emotion over just about anything, be it a schnauzer that's fallen into a sewer or an airplane that's fallen into a building. This instinct, in all its worse excesses, is promulgated and amplified by continual repetition and updating. We are but a nation of lachrymosal wallets to some, I suspect. We have been/are being trained to cry over those we do not know and care nothing about. Or even actively hold in contempt. Which is not natural human behavior, if you check the history books. Are we nicer because we shed tears for our anonymous brothers and sisters? Or are we easier to control as a population of teeth-gnashing, garment-rending milksops? Hard to say.
posted by umberto at 9:49 AM on August 2, 2002

Hard to say.

Not so very hard, surely.
posted by rushmc at 12:28 PM on August 2, 2002

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