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How NOT to make a 9/11 ad

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist.”

When you’re trying to convince people you’re not crazy, a sentence like that is a bad start. Yet there it is, in a commercial created as part of something called the “9/11 10th Anniversary Campaign.” I’m sharing their ad, even though I vehemently disagree with it, because it’s an interesting example of advocacy advertising.

Take a look:

I haven’t seen this particular ad on TV, but I’ve seen similar ads on local cable channels.

There are several organizations affiliated with this campaign—the main sponsor being Remember Building 7, along with World for 9/11 Truth, NYC CAN, Firefighters for 9/11 Truth and Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

One of these groups, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, is actually a registered nonprofit, with a board and a significant amount of money moving in and out. (I dug up a copy of their most recent 990 form, which you can see here as a PDF.)

Having up-to-date nonprofit paperwork goes a long way toward convincing people you’re legit. But think this through. Who starts a campaign with such a singular focus on Building 7—where everyone was safely evacuated? It only makes sense if you know the real reason, which is left unspoken in this ad. WTC7 the most visible “mystery” in a series of dots that conspiracy theorists connect as evidence that people in the U.S. government planned the attacks. Under this alternate narrative, the conspirators orchestrated a massive coverup, which involved a controlled demolition of WTC7 to obliterate records of the crime.

Most people tune out this garbage. Here in New York, we’ve gotten used to ignoring the “9/11 Was An Inside Job” people, who spread literature trying to link the 9/11 attacks to the Bush administration. These groups exploit our national grief to plant falsehoods, resulting in vulnerable people scared beyond reason, and honorable people wrongly accused of atrocities.

It’s a free country. These groups can keep talking. They can run their ads. And people will ignore and marginalize them. Nobody really talks about these ads. Politicians and public figures know better than to engage conspiracy theorists, and the rest of us fall somewhere between disinterested and vaguely annoyed.

If there’s a lesson about copywriting here, it’s how eagerly an audience will dismiss advertising that doesn’t make any sense.

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Related post

How to make a 9/11 ad
As noted yesterday, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is running a polite and serious ad seeking support for the real 9/11 memorial.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Politics


  1. JF says:

    Only 25% of New Yorkers have ever seen footage of Building 7 collapsing. It’s when you stop ignoring people who tell you a third tower collapsed on 9/11 that you will see it. This campaign will expose 10 millions in the NYC area to Building 7, most of them for the first time.

  2. 2020Vision says:

    As long as “perceived as respected” organizations can get away with spewing blatant lies like this one:

    “These groups exploit our national grief to plant falsehoods”

    we’re all in bad shape.

    Give us ONE example of a falsehood. You can’t. And even if you tried, it would be refuted with reams of scientific evidence.

    Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message”, then published “The Medium is the Massage”. He’s probably turning in his grave now.

    The MSM has massaged the brains of the masses into being unable to think for themselves. Grassroots campaigns like RememberBuilding7 aren’t bankrolled by the rich and powerful. They do what they can.

    Oddly enough, apart from the pacing, this spot’s style is eerily similar to the ones promoted in your next article where you claim to serve up the delicious recipe for successfully selling 9/11 propaganda to the masses. So who’s the real top chef in the communication kitchen? Who’s inspiring whom?

    As a copywriter, I would have left out the “I’m not a conspiracy theorist” line. The spot would have been much stronger without it. As an editor, I would have slowed it down a bit, too.

    But let’s not quibble over the technical details. Look at the message. The point here is, Building 7 is not talked about because it is indeed a major problem for massage therapists…whose only recourse is ridicule, which, when examined closely, is a pathetic communication strategy one resorts to in times of desperation.

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