The thin line between honoring and commercializing

I can only imagine the debates that took place inside State Farm and its agencies over creating a TV commercial to run during the coverage of the 911 tenth anniversary. Frankly, if I were in an advisory role, I would suggest steering clear of the topic, as no matter what you do, it will be interpreted by many as exploitative.

That said, the 90-second commercial — or, perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a sponsored short-film — embedded above is the best needle-threading I’ve ever seen in such a situation.

Letting Spike Lee direct a tribute, a love letter, actually, to New York City and its fire fighters, is inspired. (A “making of” video with him can be found here.) To have music that, when the PS-22 choir was not available, is performed by alumni of the choir and other children from the NYC school system, is the perfect sound track.

Most important: The commercial does not mention the terrorist attack of 9/11 — but is a tribute to the New York Fire Department — and the resilience of the city and its residents. The message (and associated cause, the National Fallen Heroes Foundation) is narrowly focused and avoids anything jingoistic.

And, if you think about insurance companies and fire fighters, it’s an appropriate message, from an appropriate source in this nuanced context.

Bottom line: I love this video. I love that it’s about today and the future. I love the message and I hope people will be inspired as much as I am.

But it’s not something another company should attempt to replicate.