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AT&T makes it clear: marketers should never touch 9/11

Attempting to join the US’s general commemoration of the September 11 terrorist attacks is one thing. Inserting subtle means of marketing into said attempts is another thing entirely.

This morning, mobile network AT&T sent out a tweet with the words “Never Forget” and a photo of the Tribute in Light, an art installation of 88 searchlights next to the site of the World Trade Center, which create two columns of light in remembrance of the twin towers that fell on September 11, 2001. Only it wasn’t just a photo. It was a photo of a photo on a mobile phone. This is how it looked.

AT&T September 11 Marketing Campaign

And these were some of the responses.

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The company has since tweeted an apology—albeit a rather half-hearted one that essentially pleaded not guilty…

… and inspired its own set of withering replies:

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 2.47.21 PM

While AT&T’s wasn’t the only 9/11 marketing gaffe this year—the Marriott offered free coffee and muffins this morning, and a Wisconsin golf club advertised a $9.11 special on 9/11—and likely won’t be the last, both the initial tweet and its weaselly follow-up exhibit an extraordinary tone-deafness. Had the company merely posted a message about 9/11, or even a photo that wasn’t taken through a mobile phone, it would probably have been fine. AT&T declined a request for comment.

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