The ad mixes images of posters that Sept. 11 victims' relatives created for their missing loved ones and words that call a proposed memorial "a cold, random list of names."
"A memorial in name only is no memorial at all," reads the commercial, which was to begin airing Thursday.
It was commissioned by victims' relatives who are upset that such details as their loved ones' ages will be left off the memorial. The families said they wouldn't support private fundraising for the project.
The debate over how to list the names of the 2,979 people killed on Sept. 11 and in the 1993 trade center bombing is the latest and most divisive issue surrounding the memorial. Other disputes have centered on its cost, a design that once had the names of the dead listed underground, and whether to build on the spots at the base of the towers where many victims' remains were found.
Construction on the memorial only began last spring. It is scheduled to open in 2009, while the opening of a museum is planned for a year later.
Family members created the 60-second television advertisement that was to start appearing Thursday on the NY1 cable channel. They said more ads may be launched in other markets later.
The commercial encourages opponents to sign a petition on a new family Web site.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took over last fall as chairman of the foundation building the memorial, said Wednesday that the latest plan to arrange the names will not change.
"You can't please everybody," Bloomberg said. "I think the naming issue is something that has been decided."
Family members and police and fire unions had long opposed memorial architect Michael Arad's proposal to list the names of the dead in random order on stone parapets around two reflecting pools marking the twin towers' footprints.
They issued a counterproposal in 2004, asking that the memorial list victims' ages, companies and, if applicable, the tower floor on which they worked. First responders and crew members on the four hijacked jetliners that crashed on Sept. 11 would have been listed together.
Bloomberg announced a new arrangement last month. It groups people according to where they worked or where they died. Flight numbers would be listed on the memorial as well, along with the names of police and fire companies that responded. Some family members and the head of one firefighters' union support the plan.
Families opposing the arrangement say the listings fail to show how young most of the victims were, while giving first responders and those who died on the planes higher status than those who worked in companies at the trade center.
"We can't have two sets of victims," said Patricia Reilly, whose sister, Lorraine Lee, was killed in the trade center's south tower.
Company directory look?
Tom Roger, a foundation board member whose daughter was a flight attendant on the plane that hit the trade center's north tower, said that by listing so many company names, "to some, it would look like a corporate directory."
"It becomes a memorial to the company. These are not companies that died — these were people," Roger said.
Edie Lutnick, whose brother was one of 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees killed on Sept. 11, said the families would pay for the ads instead of donating until the listing of the names changes.
"We don't want them stripped of their affiliations. Unacceptable," she said.
The petition Web site is www.savethe911memorial.com
The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation Web site is buildthememorial.org