A commercial for Colonial Williamsburg that aired regionally during CBS’ broadcast of Super Bowl 50 created a stir in the twitterverse by employing images of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.
The ad featured reversed footage of achievements including the Wright Brothers’ first flight, suffragettes, Barack Obama’s inauaguration and space missions.
A voiceover by former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw asked viewers to “reflect upon our sacrifices, our breakthroughs and yes our heartbreaks.” On the word heartbreak, a reversed image of the Twin Towers transforming itself from a fireball into a whole building was shown. The ad ended with “Where did our spirit first take shape?” followed by the motto,” It started here. Colonial Williamsburg.”
Some viewers immediately took to Twitter to criticize the commercial. “Not on board with 9/11 footage of any kind,” tweeted a veiwer named Sarah. “Using 9/11 for commercial purposes is as uncool as using Auschwitz,” wrote Alex Polkhovsky.
According to a statement by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a longer pre-release of the ad was met with a positive response: "We understand and respect that some of the images depicted in the ad are jarring. However, the small data point of people who objected to some of the imagery in the ad does not represent the total viewership. Not even close. We have received an outpouring of support on social media for the ad and its simple, powerful message: All that is past is prologue."