Ground-Zero 'shoes to die for' advert a 'coincidence'

Pop-up store's campaign 'not related to 9/11' , but Times Square staff later mask out words

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 3:31am

"Shoes to die for" by Ground-Zero. It is not an advertising slogan most global companies would launch in the month of September, considering the 9/11 anniversary, but Hong Kong shoemaker Staccato did.

On September 11, while the rest of the world commemorated victims of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, Staccato opened a pop-up store in Times Square, from September 10 to 12, promoting its autumn and winter line of shoes designed by London-based label Ground-Zero. The pop-up store will close today.

"It's a totally separate idea. Ground-Zero is a designer and the slogan is a bit of kidding around, no meaning that relates to 9/11," said Cara Chan, a spokeswoman for DDB, the public relations firm which created the multimillion-dollar campaign that goes China-wide this month.

In the Causeway Bay mall's atrium, twin Eiffel towers were placed next to the boots and spiked heels.

In a poster on the pop-up store, a crowd of people holding signs of "Shoes to die for" cheered Sammi Cheng Sau-man dressed as a can-can dancer. Tourists and residents walked past the thoroughfare, seemingly oblivious to the connotations.

Few eyebrows were raised among the heavy lunchtime crowds passing the ads, unlike in a similar incident in New York. In March this year, advertisements for the US television series Mad Men drew criticism in New York City because they showed a man falling from a height. To some the image too closely resembled those of people jumping from the burning towers in 2001.

DDB and Times Square said they had received no complaints about the adverts, which also feature in the MTR.

American Adam Bryant, a 27-year-old English teacher based in Shanghai, said: "It's kind of strange, but stuff about 9/11 doesn't faze me any more … I remember thinking: Oh, it's September 11, but it didn't register when I saw the ads."

In 2001, Bryant was a high-school pupil in Virginia. "The ad doesn't bother me. They're probably thinking right now: 'oh my god - that's not what we meant'."

Another American passer-by said: "If you think about it, it's a bit insensitive, but I didn't notice." The 40-year-old musician, who declined to be named, did not think it was intentional.

A Frenchman simply lamented the constant bombardment of ads. "Too many ads. Get rid of all of them," he said, shaking his head as he walked by.

At about 4.30pm yesterday, Times Square staff began masking out the words "Ground-Zero" on the pop-up store, but a mall representative said the dates were a coincidence and simply based on availability of space.

The idea of a collaboration between Staccato and Ground-Zero was an idea from Real Ting Chi-ko, a PR professional and husband of Canto-pop star Miriam Yeung Chin-wah, said Chan. It is unclear if Ting had been involved in the campaign's present manifestation.

The MTR Corp and the US consulate could not be reached for comment.