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