WILLIAMBURG, Va. — A Super Bowl commercial for Colonial Williamsburg has created a buzz online, but not necessarily for the reasons the historic tourist attraction wanted. The Super Bowl ad, a first for Colonial Williamsburg, presented a “powerful walk backward through America’s past as part of Colonial Williamsburg’s ongoing campaign challenging Americans to put today’s headlines into historical context.”
“Where did our strength come from? Our fight? Our heart? Where did we first become, ‘We the people?'” Tom Brokaw asks as the screen fades to black. The simple phrase, “It started here,” appears out of the darkness of the screen to remind viewers that America’s greatness began with a simple desire to live free and to boldly chart its own path.
Among the images used in the “powerful walk” Colonial Williamsburg took viewers down was one of the World Trade Center from September 11, 2001. The inclusion of the 9/11 image was met with disdain from some who saw the advertisement which aired on New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.
“Do you think the jumpers would appreciate being exploited for your profit?” Catherine Ritschel posted on the Colonial Williamburg Facebook page. “Do you think that all the MILLIONS of us who are still heartsore from the collapse of the WTC are statistically insignificant? Is ignorance the main theme of Colonial Williamsburg?”
“What a stupid ad! That was an embarrassment to all people that live in this area! You wasted your money on that ad and tried to use national tragedies such as Iwo Jima, D-Day, Vietnam, 9-11, etc. for your financial gain! Zero footage of Colonial Williamsburg was included and that is your greatest selling point!,” Erik Tremblay added.
Others have come to the defense of Colonial Williamsburg.
“I wish more was posted like your commercial from historic sites and groups in America! The past is our truth. All we have fought for, and against, is what makes us American! The pictures of 9/11 are a reminder of why we fight against those that wish to tear us down,” Travis Nosko posted. “When I watched the towers come back up (in reverse) my heart warmed and I thought we can overcome all roadblocks in front of us! WE (all of us) must build and rise from the rubble and remember the past and let it guide our future. Thank you Colonial Williamsburg for reminding us of where we Americans come from!”
In response to the reaction its ad received, Colonial Williamsburg posted the following message:
We take our mission seriously to educate all Americans about the history of our Nation. This means recognizing our accomplishments and our heartbreaks. We understand and respect that some of the images depicted in the ad may be jarring to some, but the outpouring of support on social media sends a powerful message that the past must be remembered if we are to succeed as a Nation.
We hope this commercial starts a national debate over the role of history in today’s fast-paced society, where too often the desire for instant gratification overshadows the importance of context.
~ Kevin Crossett, Colonial Williamsburg director of public relations