A narrow majority (51%) of US adults would prefer not to see ads on September 11, reports an exclusive survey for Advertising Age.

In the online study carried out by WPP’s Lightspeed Research, a further 34% of the 307 respondents declared it acceptable to run ads on the first anniversary of the tragedy, while 15% had no opinion.

Despite the disapproving majority, 64% of the sample said their opinion would remain unchanged of a company that did advertise on the anniversary; and of those who said their view would change, an overwhelming majority declared it would be a change for the worse.

Emphasizing the contradictory emotions of Americans, 50% of survey respondents said they are more likely to support ads on TV programs that commemorate the date, while 44% thought it inappropriate. Six percent abstained from expressing an opinion.

Few would doubt the survey reflects the nation’s feelings although a sample of just 367 does seem a tad small (especially if self-selecting) to be statistically valid for nation with a population of nearly 288 million.

The instincts of savvy media executives are arguably as valid: “The first anniversary of September 11 is not a good day to sell hamburgers,” said Rich Hamilton, ceo of Zenith Optimedia Group Americas, and many networks are expected to eschew the airing of commercials that day.

“Content will drive the decision,” opines Bill Koenigsberg, president/ceo of Horizon Media; while Pat Dermody, president of integration at DDB Worldwide, Chicago, observes: “The questions are still on the table as the networks try to figure out what they're going to do.”

The Ad Council’s president/ceo Peggy Conlon revealed she had been approached by network representatives about using public service announcements that day. “Everyone is searching for messages that are not commercials,” she said.

Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff