It seems that capitalizing on something as tragic and sacred as yesterday’s “massacre” at Virginia Tech is not out of bounds. Ken Wheaton, a writer for Advertising Age, has just reported that mainstream media such as The New York Times and Inside Edition have purchased the keywords “Virginia Shooting” on Google’s search engine. The idea being that, when someone searches for this information, the sponsoring company’s website would be at the top of the results list. In Google’s case, in a yellow bar at the top and/or a sidebar to the right of the results.

It’s sick and tacky for sure. But is it even an ethical marketing practice? The sponsoring company actually gets MONEY each time a user clicks on their links. They are, in a very real way, making money on the tragedy of the Virginia Tech shooting.

I haven’t been a fan of mainstream media, including The New York Times, for quite some time, but this just nails it home for me. How horrible.

Ad Age’s story title says it all: Proud Sponsors of the Virginia Tech Shooting?

Update: I’m still thinking about this. I feel that marketing and advertising of this nature is not only unethical and immoral, but a really bad business decision. Are the few extra bucks these companies are sure to make worth the bad PR, the bad association that people will make with them in the future, after seeing what kind of advertising they are going after? It’s bad for the victims, bad for the web users and bad for the company’s image. So why do it?

The only redeemable outcome would be if these media company’s decided to donate all proceeds from the ad links to the victim’s families. But we all know that’s not happening…