Spanish paper apologizes for Trade Center ad

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[Madrid] Spain's biggest newspaper El Pais apologized for launching an online subscription campaign for its Web site that used images of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to win subscribers to its Web site elpais.es.

The campaign, e-mailed to the site's 50,000 registered users, used two images of the downtown Manhattan skyline. The first showed the World Trade Center's Twin Towers standing out from the New York horizon; the second depicted the gloomy void left after Sept. 11. It carried the copy, "Un dia da para mucho. Imaginese lo que puede suceder en tres meses ["A lot can happen in a day. Imagine what can happen in three months]." The ad offered three months free access to elpais.es.

On Sept. 17, the prestigious left-wing daily published a front-page article apologizing. It also apologized to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. The next day, El Pais ombudswoman Malen Aznares slammed the broadsheet, calling the campaign "demented." She said, "What has happened is grave. What kind of organization do we have for something like this to happen?"

El Pais is investigating why the promotion launched without the approval of Mario Tascon, elpais.es' content manager. "Any explanation about the chain of errors that led to the launch of this campaign is insufficient," a spokeswoman for El Pais owner Grupo Prisa told Advertising Age. "Some of our readers have judged it as repugnant and we share that feeling with them."

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