Over the past weekend, a handful of major advertisers ran TV spots commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Many more ran print ads, or other forms of communications or activations of various kinds. While some walked a fine line between commemoration and self-promotion (and some crossed it), viewers responded well to ads from several top advertisers.
Ace Metrix, which rated some 14 such Sept. 11-themed ads, found that Budweiser's ad featuring its Clydesdale horses was the most effective of all the commemorative ads, and also one of the most effective ads so far this quarter. The average Ace Score for beer ads was 478 on a scale of 0-950. Budweiser's spot was 665. State Farm's 90-second "Thanks" ad, directed by Spike Lee, was 662 on the Ace score, making it the second-most-effective ad this quarter. The average Ace Score for insurance ads is 492.
General Motors' Chevrolet division ran several ads, many of which ran during the Discovery Channel's "Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero." They scored between 624 and 573, versus the average automotive Ace Score of 526. Southwest's Sept. 11 ad scored 589 on Ace Metrix's scale, a slightly higher score than the average airline Ace score of 576.
Ace Metrix rates ads based on parameters like likability, informative, and attention. Jack McKee, VP of sales and marketing at Ace Metrix, notes that Chevrolet's ads -- almost documentary-style, essentially someone talking about the moment "from a pure performance perspective -- didn't get the attention or likability that State Farm and Budweiser got. But measured from an 'information' standpoint, they did well."
He says Budweiser's ad was 106 points above the next-highest-scoring beer ad, and most importantly, did well among people who don't drink domestic beer or don't drink beer at all. "It scored insanely high. Beer is one of those categories that doesn't register with everyone. But in this ad even non-drinkers rated the ad well above norms. It came through that the ad communicated a great deal of respect."
While Verizon's ad was not below normal for a telecom, it didn't do as well as other Sept. 11 spots and was not in the Top 10. "The Verizon ad had lots of imagery of children, and emotional music (Andrea Bocelli's 'The Prayer' sung by Josh Groban and Charlotte Church) did lots better with parents than non-parents. It didn't do as well with men and younger women, but did really well with women 36 to 49 years old," says McKee.
So why even bother taking the risks involved in creating such an advertisement? "When you look at Bud and State Farm, you see that it's possible to do a great job of communicating a completely different side of your brand to people who may not even use your products," he says. "If you are willing to go down that path you can reap great rewards."
Of course, people will realize that at some level, a brand that launches a memorial spot is "using" the historicity of the attacks to do brand building. McKee suggests that most people don't take it that way, especially if the ad is not about the product.
"There's a lot of back and forth on that, and I think that looking at the feedback people actually sent, the mass audiences did not think that. We as marketers naturally go to the cynical side, but most people thought they were touching and showed respect, so even if the ultimate motivation was brand, on average, people feel good about it."