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United Airlines Forgets 9/11

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September 12, 2001. My then-girlfriend and I were in her dorm, getting ready to head out for lunch. Like everyone, the previous day's tragedy were firmly in our minds and everything felt so surreal. As we went to switch off the television, an ad for Flexon eyeglasses began to air. The spot focused on the "shape memory alloy" of the flexible frames, allowing the glasses to bend but retain their original shape. The commercial used a few visual aids to show the benefits of this type of technology, saying "If only all metal were flexible."

And it led off with probably the most offensive, unintentional gaffe that could possibly air on September 12. (Scroll to 1:12)



My girlfriend and I looked at each other, mouths agape. "Did they just do that?"

Understandably, September 11 drew our focus away from the minutiae of our day-to-day lives. But if you were the marketing exec behind this ad, you might've wanted to pick up the phone at least by 10:30 or 11.

While Flexon and the network could be given some leeway given the chaos and confusion in the 24 hours prior to airing that ad, a decade should be enough time to remain conscious of any marketing insensitivity related to 9/11.

Especially if the company is United Airlines.

This week, the airline accidentally re-issued flight numbers 93 and 175 -- the two numbers to United Airline's hijacked flights. On Wednesday, the company posted an apology on its Facebook page.

"We discovered that flight numbers 93 and 175 were inadvertently reinstated in our future schedule." Adding, "We regret the error, apologize and are taking immediate steps to remove the numbers from our system."

United MEC Chairman Captain Wendy Morse also issued a statement condemning the error. "Their insensitivity and unconscionable disrespect of these sacred flight numbers and their meaning to the employees of United Airlines and the families of those who lost their lives nearly 10 years ago are not only alarming, but reprehensible."

All right. It's a pretty glaring error, but the company apologized, and we were ready to move on.

And then came this ad.


Yes, what you're seeing is a United Airlines ad with the phrase "You're going to like where we land." Right in front of Ground Zero.

Even on its own, the tagline doesn't really inspire consumer appeal. It's poor, ineffective copy. But placing it near one of two locations -- the worst of the two -- where United Airlines should never have it placed goes beyond a clerical error.

That is just mind-bogglingly bad form.

Like the disgruntled Apple employees ready to quit, those behind the ad better update their LinkedIn accounts.

(See also: United to Passengers: Enjoy Your Flight, Idiots and Apple Staffers Planning a Revolt)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.

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