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How One Man's Anti Drilling Ad is Another's 9/11 Exploitation Campaign

The non-profit environmental group Oceana, apparently hellbent on forcing commuters in Washington, D.C., to consider more serious questions than their next iPad app download, is marking the one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil-spill disaster with a series of ads that ask: What if it happened here?
To personalize the message, Oceana took imagery of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and superimposed them over scenes of the San Francisco Bay, the New Harbor and the Tidal Basin in DC. The ad's simple question and bold imagery allows urbanites to contemplate the bigger questions in life without having to pop out their ear buds and without the hassle of dealing with protesters covered in fake oil.

Brilliant ad campaign, perhaps. Or is it exploitative of 9/11 victims? Another perspective is that Oceana is exploiting the terrorist attacks on the United States by using imagery of a burning oil rig in the New York Harbor (hat tip Mother Jones). Accuracy in Media, the conservative "media watchdog" group, exposed Oceana's terrorist-loving sympathies in an investigatory piece that includes masterful hidden camera work, man-on-the-street interviews and one-liners. Ron Burgundy would be proud. Check out the Accuracy in Media piece in all of its journalistic glory below.

What do folks over at Oceana have to say about this? Well, the staff/volunteers on the video seemed perplexed by the questioning. But Oceana did explain the purpose of the ad when it was launched.

We hope that by asking the question, "What If It Happened Here?" we will get people to think about how they would be affected, and how their communities would be affected, if the BP oil spill happened off their coasts. We hope these ads will help people realize that we need to stop the drill.
Hmph. Likely story, Oceana.

Sept. 11 imagery in advertising is typically a bad idea. Still, that hasn't stopped numerous companies -- including Starbucks and its collapse into cool campaign as well as a French water charity and the World Wildlife Fund -- from using 9/11 to sell Tazo tea or raise awareness. As my BNET colleague Jim Edwards has noted before, foreign countries are especially quick to use 9/11 in advertising. In the case of Oceana, the only 9/11ish tinge to the ad is the smoke in the skyline. There are no planes or burning towers. Only a burning rig sitting in the New York Harbor.


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