Tuesday, September 8, 2009

DDB/WWF "Tsunami" Ad.

Hi All — It appears the advertising and design worlds are buzzing with controversy surrounding the placement of this ad for the WWF by the Brazilian office of ad giant DDB. As it turns out, the ad was essentially created just to win awards, and was only published once so that the agency could claim it was legit. It did win an award, from the prestigious ad competition The One Show (which has since been stripped. The One Club has also changed their entry rules to exclude ads such as this from future competitions.) — but that was just the beginning.

Here's the ad and an accompanying TV spot to check out. Warning: The TV spot is is troubling.

Read the full story here and here. Read / see the WWF's apology here.

What do you think?


  1. As a person whose relative was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center I find this ad disrespectful and unnecessary. There were hundreds of other venues they could have used to get their point across, but no...they wanted to use 9/11 for the shock factor. The advertising world has stopped respecting that day and turned it into an advertising pitch. Just a few years ago people seemed to remember the gravity of that day. Now people use the date to sell their movies, holding opening days on September 11 because they know it's a date people will remember. Yes, we should move on in the memory of those passed and try to go about our daily lives, but I think using such a tragedy for the mere purpose of advertising is disrespectful and unethical. Yes, I think we should respect our planet, but those who created this ad need to respect the fallen.

  2. I think this is a pretty interesting topic for discussion.

    The print advertisement brings back fond memories of being seated around the tables in the drafting room, holding up thumbnails for the scrutiny of Mark and fellow classmates. I'm reminded especially of some of the positively awful ideas that I pitched over the years, and the disapproval and dismissal that they were swiftly met with. I call upon this anecdote because it seems unlikely that this advertisement could possibly escape any meeting or thumbnail session unscathed.

    That got me thinking, though: would this advertisement have been more successful if the subject matter were a little more emotionally, chronologically (and perhaps physically) distant from the event depicted? Perhaps if it was Hiroshima, Pearl Harbor, or something really distant, like the Battle of Gettysburg? (Those first two sound like bad ideas already, sorry!) In essence, I ask: was the concept of this ad spot-on, and the devil was in the details? Or was this thing doomed to begin with, regardless of which angle it took?

    Advertisers seem to frequently catch flak for "shock advertising," which purposefully startles its audience to get its message across. The issue involving this ad really has me thinking whether or not using fear and/or discomfort as an ultimate means to sell something (in this case... support for the WWF? I recognize that the legitimacy of the ad is questionable from the sources cited). Is this something that designers need to be especially vigilant of and sensitive to-- the ad (or logo/website/whatever) for which the ultimate goal is to make the audience go "Oh my God"? Is there any merit at all to this type of tactic?

    In looking at the other campaigns that this agency has done for WWF, I have to say that many of them seem pretty cool! A fair number of them, though, seem to use shock value to achieve their desired effect... is this an intrinsically unethical practice?

    Sorry for going crazy with my post length, but I am genuinely curious about some of the issues raised by this advertisement!