Ad of the Day: 9/11 Memorial Spots Balance Tragedy and Tourism

Todd Beamer's watch and a view from space

On Thursday, President Obama dedicated the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero. It opens to the public next week. And now, a pair of simple but powerful new ads from BBDO New York (and Imaginary Forces director Alan Williams) offer a glimpse of the tragic history on display there.

The first replays the surreal view from the International Space Station of smoke billowing over lower Manhattan on the day of the attacks, along with the commentary of astronaut Frank L. Culbertson. The second, voiced by Robert De Niro, focuses on the burnt and twisted watch that belonged to Todd Beamer, one of the passengers who revolted against the hijackers on United Flight 93, causing the plane to crash in rural Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board but sparing countless others in the intended target of Washington D.C.

The copywriting in the Beamer ad flirts with somewhat melodramatic language that doesn't necessarily do a service to gravity of the overall subject matter, stating the already heart-wrenchingly obvious fact that the watch can no longer tell time. But it does make its point that the artifact's role has shifted from utilitarian to something much more significant.

The Culbertson spot has no such issues, relying on the astronaut's poignant words. It's also oddly appropriate conceptually. Culbertson was able to provide some perspective from a great distance on 9/11. The Memorial can do something similar, given the 12 years that have passed. (The tagline itself, "History remembered," put the events at a distance, too.)

The ads also have the challenge of being, essentially, tourism spots—which can feel jarring. (Indeed, they close by asking you to "Plan your visit.") But they do so with as much respect as they can. And both ads are, in and of themselves, sobering reminders of that day—and thus function much like the memorial itself, on a smaller scale.


Client: 9/11 Memorial Museum

Agency: BBDO New York

Titles: "The Watch," "Astronaut"

Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars

Chief Creative Officer, New York: Greg Hahn

Executive Creative Director: Mike Smith

Senior Creative Director/Copywriter: Tom Kraemer

Creative Director/Copywriter: Rick Williams

Creative Director/Art Director: Marcel Yunes

Executive Producer: Angelo Ferrugia

Project Manager: Lauren Callaghan

Account Director: Neil Onsdorff

Account Executive: Jen Sullivan

Production Company: Imaginary Forces

Executive Producer: Sarah Roebuck

Director: Alan Williams

Producer: Jon Hassell

Producer: Kacie Barton

Production Coordinator: Tess Sitzmann

3D Pre-Vis: David Lee, Alan Williams

Editor: Zach Kilroy

Line Producer: Rich Schwab

Director of Photography: Shane Sigler

1st AC: Beau Grantland

Motion Control Op: Sean Folki

Gaffer: GT Womack

Grip: Jeff Clark

Production Assistants: Johann Stamp, Griffin Sager-Gerllerman, Sara Strahan

Color: The Mill

Colorist: Fergus McCall

Final Mix: Sonic Union

Sound Engineers: Fernando Ascani and Steve Rosen

Equipment generously donated by:

Shane Sigler


Abel Cinetech

Monster Remotesz

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