State Farm has Best 9/11 ‘Tribute,’ Hooters has Best 9/11 ‘Ad’


Over the weekend, all of those 9/11 commemorative campaigns we anticipated a couple of weeks ago came to pass.

One of the ads we noted was State Farm’s. As it turns out, State Farm’s moody, tear-jerking ad fired on all cylinders and ruled the day. Other brands’ tributes? We’ll let you decide who won and who lost.[more]

State Farm brought in the big guns for its ad, a lump-in-the-throat tribute to New York’s firefighters by kids who weren’t alive on 9/11/01, and it shows. The spot, at top, was the top trending video on YouTube on 9/11/11, attracting a half-million views, and it’s still trending today.

Spike Lee directed the spot which, to really make the competition unfair, used a kids’ choir rendition of the now-iconic Jay-Z and Alicia Keys song Empire State of Mind, with directing folks to purchase the single on iTunes as a fundraiser for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Mercifully, it’s not called Empire State Farm of Mind. (It’s clearly inspired by Staten Island’s PS22 kids choral cover of the song, by the way — while the original version is now the go-to tune for any promo about New York). 

While there are some ethical questions to be raised about building a brand campaign around the 9/11 tragedy, State Farm shows how it’s done with class, from reskinning its YouTube page with the spot’s tagline, “Never Forgotten. Forever Grateful” and producing tasteful “extras” about the spot.

Sure, State Farm stayed solemn, but without doubt such a 9/11-heavy effort goes beyond “tribute” to “exploitation. (Not that it’s the first insurance brand to use a tragedy to brand build). But you can’t argue with results; each time the ad ran during the day’s NFL games (and otherwise), Twitter bawled its eyes out.

Looking to get a little 9/11 love of its own, but stumbling badly in the process, was Verizon. True, Verizon’s ad was not outright horrible, using the groundbreaking combination of children and black and white to convey depth, but running next to State Farm’s ad, well… ouch.

Winning the weekend though was Hooters’ “Hooters Girls Remember 9/11” YouTube ad.

Sure, a majority of users have voted down the video, and the comments on the move are a case-study in online vitriol and trolling, but the ad easily provides the best commentary of the day about brands dabbling in the tragedy-tribute business. (Maybe we jinxed the brand when we recently commended Hooters on its social media strategy.)

It seems Hooters carried its 9/11 magic offline as well. At a cooperative 9/11 event, Hooters joined Hard Rock Cafe at its Hollywood, Florida location to feature a stunt fire truck that wowed audiences by popping wheelies — you know, in honor of all the dead firemen.

In the end, how much did State Farm really gain from being the brand that “won” simply by managing not to screw up its 9/11 tribute? New policy holders? Do consumers now have a better attitude toward the brand? Will anyone stop (or start) going to Hooters because of its ad?