Yesterday’s 10th anniversary of September 11 offered many touching tributes throughout the day, from halftime at NFL football games to patriotic-themed church services. Big brands such as State Farm and Budweiser offered their own tributes in the form of commercials that aired on major networks. Not surprisingly, there have been extreme opinions as to whether or not it’s ethical for these brands to essentially capitalize on one of the worst American tragedies in the last century. Some will argue that it’s nice to see corporations take a public stand on issues that others would shy away from, while others have argued that using such a solemn day to sell a product is morally reprehensible. For many, execution is the key here, and State Farm and Budweiser couldn’t have been more different in theirs.
State Farm’s Spike Lee-directed spot featured local New York children serenading real New York firefighters a rendition of Alicia Keys’ and Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” directly tugging on our heartstrings. Interestingly, you didn’t even know what company the commercial was for until the last frame when the State Farm logo flashed across the screen. The best part about this commercial is that you can purchase the full track from iTunes and the proceeds will benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Budweiser responded with a reprise of their 2002 Super Bowl commercial, which shows the Clydesdales kneeling before Ground Zero. The latest commercial shows the Clydesdales kneeling again, this time with the One World Trade Center under construction in the background. You knew within the first frame that this was a Budweiser commercial, but for many this one was the favorite.
Budweiser and State Farm were among a very small handful of corporations that created a tribute video, speaking to the ethical controversy. What do you think? Are corporations who create these types of tributes acting solely in self-interest or not?