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Controversial WWF September 11 Advertisment Causes Outrage, Goes Viral
September 3, 2009 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Brazil-based agency DDB BRASIL, contracted by the WWF to make an ad which would drive a "Respect the Planet" theme home, thought that making a 9/11 themed ad would be a good idea. After the video somehow makes it to the internet (some say it was leaked by the agency itself to win an award at Cannes), outrage predictably ensues. DDB Brasil insists the commercial was nothing but a rough draft and the WWF has not endorsed the ad made in their name, although evidence exists suggesting WWF Brazil endorsed a similar print ad a while back. Stupid, bad ad and a comedy of errors? Or the latest viral ad strategy?
posted by Effigy2000 (55 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
In bad taste, at the very least.
posted by flippant at 4:26 PM on September 3, 2009


Clearly, if a tsunami killed that many innocent people in an unprovoked act of terror, then we should invade the land of tornado and institute regime change immediately.
posted by idiopath at 4:32 PM on September 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Undoubtedly an intentional leak. It does an amazing job of inciting free promotion and brand dissemination in the form of op-eds and probably front page news in some states. Trolling at it's finest.
posted by Saddo at 4:35 PM on September 3, 2009


Exactly.
posted by cavalier at 4:39 PM on September 3, 2009


Well, it's true isn't it.
posted by kaspen at 4:41 PM on September 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


I may be showing my age, but I was confused at why the World Wrestling Federation would be so excited about getting the "Respect the Planet" message out there. They're awfully fond of DDT and Atomic Drops, not so much saving the pandas.

With the clarification that WWF is World Wildlife Foundation, I wonder how a leaked video would get considered for an advertisement award. I'd imagine there would be more "unofficial" ads leaked, with pre-prepared messages about being so very sorry, while reminding everyone of the real impact tsunamis, or whatever the message was behind the advert.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:45 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


OH! THAT WWF!

Until the very end of the ad, I thought it was for this one.
Because I so don't follow professional wrestling that I didn't even know they changed their name.

posted by yiftach at 4:46 PM on September 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


(dammit, flt)
posted by yiftach at 4:46 PM on September 3, 2009


I like to think I'm open-minded but I don't think an ad campaign that uses 9/11 to promote tsunami conservation is going to go over too well in the coastal states.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:58 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


How exactly would "respecting" or "conserving" the Earth have avoided the earthquake that caused the tsunami in Southeast Asia?

And does the 9/11 context of the ad, while saying we should respect the earth due to its ability to kill us, imply that we should therefore also respect the terrorists due to their ability to kill us?

This ad makes no sense on multiple levels.
posted by jsonic at 5:00 PM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would have no problem with this aside from a) the snarky "great tragedy" text about 9/11 and b) it doesn't actually want people to care about another similar tragedy. So basically well done except that it says nothing besides FEAR THE FUCKING PLANET, IT KILLS.

Because not polluting or eating endangered animals prevents tsunamis?
posted by shownomercy at 5:00 PM on September 3, 2009


> I wonder how a leaked video would get considered for an advertisement award.

It's pretty common in competitions to have a category for unpublished work. Creatives frequently end up doing things that never run, either because the client runs out of money, doesn't like the work and goes with somebody else's, the product changes, or some other circumstance comes up that kills the job before it goes public.
posted by ardgedee at 5:00 PM on September 3, 2009


I don't really even understand the point of the add. They're saying "People caused 9/11, but nature caused the Tsunami." Because people's reaction to 9/11 was to respect Al Quada?

I mean, They are saying that Nature is worse then Osama bin Laden. And besides, the Tsunami had nothing to do with people 'disrespecting' nature, it would have happened no matter what, unless they ad is trying to say that it was some kind of Karmaic revenge by the earth.

Wouldn't it have made more sense to show scenes of destruction wrought by the Tsunami itself?
posted by delmoi at 5:01 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"WWF strongly condemns this offensive and tasteless ad and did not authorize its production or publication," ... "apalling"

I hesitate to wade into this, but would anyone be willing to explain what is wrong with the ad? Besides the fact that 9/11 has become He Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken. A few thousand innocent civilians were killed going about the business of living their ordinary lives, hundreds of thousands if not many millions are about to be similarly killed by cataclysmic climate change. The sea level will rise, and Bangladesh will drown. Hurricanes and droughts are and will occur more frequently, and people will die. This is fact.

The ad's great sin seems to be that it dares compare one tragedy to another on the basis of a metric of number of lives lost. Personally I find it appalling that we are willing to let untold millions die so that we don't have to sacrifice projected growth of GDP, but I guess I don't have the power of taboo and society's preference to keep it's head in the sand on my side.
posted by kaspen at 5:03 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


OH! THAT WWF!

Totally -- the whole time I was waiting for Hulk Hogan to parachute out of a plane and start going all Godzilla or something.

That would have been so much cooler.
posted by spilon at 5:06 PM on September 3, 2009


I bet Pete Campbell had a hand in this. And he's not even a 'creative!'
posted by ericb at 5:09 PM on September 3, 2009


I'm fairly amazed that anybody in the WWF would approve the ad -- at least, anybody high-ranking enough in the organization to have an idea about what their mission is.

Airplanes? Tsunamis? What the heck does that have to do with conserving wildlife? What's the call to action? Is there anything the WWF gains by this, at any level? It's an incredibly jarring ad that doesn't even have a message.

I half-picture an overambitious adman at DDB buttonholing somebody from the WWF at a party, plying him with drinks, and saying, "Hey, what if we were to do these ads about how NATURE has the force of A HUNDRED ZILLION NINE-ELEVENS and we've got to save the planet! Wouldn't that be a great idea?" and the poor WWF middle-manager, deeply sozzled, replying, "Yeah, great idea. Great. I think you've got an idea there, it really is an idea. I need the bathroom."
posted by ardgedee at 5:11 PM on September 3, 2009


Is there any evidence that the natural disasters such as tsunamis are more likely due to global warming? Because that kinda seems to be the implication, although it seems like it would be an odd stance for the WWF to take... (beyond the obvious poor taste)
posted by Jeeb at 5:11 PM on September 3, 2009


Spilon: Totally -- the whole time I was waiting for Hulk Hogan to parachute out of a plane and start going all Godzilla or something. That would have been so much cooler.

According to the gang at Fark, he already did that.
posted by Ranucci at 5:13 PM on September 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh thaaaaaat WWF
posted by redteam at 5:13 PM on September 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


"I hesitate to wade into this, but would anyone be willing to explain what is wrong with the ad? Besides the fact that 9/11 has become He Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken. A few thousand innocent civilians were killed going about the business of living their ordinary lives, hundreds of thousands if not many millions are about to be similarly killed by cataclysmic climate change. The sea level will rise, and Bangladesh will drown. Hurricanes and droughts are and will occur more frequently, and people will die. This is fact."

Yes, but the advertisement doesn't make a connection between 9/11 and global warming. For some strange reason, it tries to connect the WTC collapse with the 2005 tsunami. If it had dropped the tsunami angle entirely and said something like "global warming will be like a million 9/11s," that would still be tacky, but at least it would make more sense.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:19 PM on September 3, 2009


> The sea level will rise, and Bangladesh will drown. Hurricanes and droughts are and will occur more frequently, and people will die. This is fact.

This may be the case but the tsunami was caused by geological forces that are not, to the best of our knowledge, influenced by climate or human activity. If they had meant to compare the severity of the annual typhoons in southern Asia to 9/11, that would be a bit more germane but they didn't do that.
posted by ardgedee at 5:20 PM on September 3, 2009


According to the gang at Fark, he already did that.

See -- that is much cooler....
posted by spilon at 5:22 PM on September 3, 2009


Alright, agreed, the Tsunami is a silly example, being one of the few environmental catastrophe's which has nothing to do with climate. They could have picked one of the many hurricanes, or floods or droughts. There's widespread consensus (e.g. the EPA here or the WHO here) that the planet is going to kill us, or rather is going to enable us to kill ourselves. Shame they frittered away what could have been an effective ad.
posted by kaspen at 5:24 PM on September 3, 2009


They could have gone the extra mile and added some Karl Rove logic there. "Nature killed a hundred zillion people. That's why we have to invade Australia."
posted by qvantamon at 5:25 PM on September 3, 2009


Also, this
posted by qvantamon at 5:29 PM on September 3, 2009


Deck chairs on the Titanic. "Well, it may be true that we are unnecessarily ending human civilization and the bulk of life on this planet, but..."
posted by kaspen at 5:31 PM on September 3, 2009


There's widespread consensus (e.g. the EPA here or the WHO here) that the planet is going to kill us, or rather is going to enable us to kill ourselves.

I don't think there's any evidence that global warming is going to "Kill" us. It might make life hard and frustrating, and it could elevate the likelihood that people might die in hurricanes and what not, and the mass migrations might end up causing enough conflict and tension that people end up killing each other, but it's not going to "kill us".
posted by delmoi at 5:36 PM on September 3, 2009


I liked it. If all ads were as good, I'd probably get a TV.
posted by philip-random at 5:40 PM on September 3, 2009


Shame they frittered away what could have been an effective ad.

Yes, it certainly is a shame that this simple mistake ruined this otherwise perfectly great advertisement.
posted by odinsdream at 5:47 PM on September 3, 2009


Our planet is brutally powerful.

And it needs to be punched right in the nose!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:47 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, I would encourage you to consult the science. Climate scientists know that the Earth exists within a series of stable states, which are supported by positive feedback mechanisms which once put in effect are impossible to directly undo. There have been stable states in the past in which the earth was both completely frozen over, and others in which life existed only at the poles. We're damn lucky to have come about in a period of relative tranquility, and we've done our best to disrupt that equilibrium. James Lovelock, for example, has some particularly dire predictions for what will occur as we leave this present stable state. And even more orthodox scientists in government positions acknowledge the validity of the underlying science, for example the NOAA, part of the US Chamber of Commerce. It's hard to have this conversation without descending into hysteria, which is perhaps why there is so little acknowledgment of what "global warming" will actually mean. At the very least, I think it far more irrational than reasonable to outright rule out the possibility of human extinction.
posted by kaspen at 5:52 PM on September 3, 2009


Yes, it certainly is a shame that this simple mistake ruined this otherwise perfectly great advertisement.

Then we're agreed!
posted by kaspen at 5:56 PM on September 3, 2009


tsunami conservation

Heh
posted by KokuRyu at 6:04 PM on September 3, 2009


More like WTF, AMIRITE???
posted by chasing at 6:24 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I live in New York City and have for the last 25 years. Seeing this commercial made me sick. All the people involved are deeply insensitive - whether it's just a mistake or a viral bullshit, I can't see airliners full of people crashing into the World Trade Centers and not feel horror and sadness.

How any "professional" could possibly do this - take the time to carefully render this - is beyond me.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:25 PM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then we're agreed!

Oh, absolutely.
posted by odinsdream at 6:25 PM on September 3, 2009


Couldn't they have just used that "Damn Nature, You Scary" thing and saved some $?
posted by awfurby at 7:08 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is the future. I am 75 years old and in New York on my 43 wedding anniversary. My wife and I decide to take in a Broadway show. Like we always do when we are in town. A musical comedy. But this one is special. It's a sell-out spectacular and we had to spend big bucks and pull major strings just to get nose bleed seats. It's an hour and a halt wait to get in. The lights go dark. The curtain is up. And the overture strikes. As the set for Flight 93 hovers over the stage in the most amazing set design we have ever seen. Shhhh. The first terrorists begin their dance number. Oh. It's a clever homage to West Side Story! With a cut-away duet being sung by High Jackman playing president George W. Bush. Damn we were so lucky to get tickets.
posted by tkchrist at 7:40 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing is to those 2000 odd people killed were *Americans*. Each of their lives is at least 100 more valuable then a bunch of nobodies from the 3rd world. It's outrageous that the WWF doesn't understand this.
posted by carfilhiot at 8:23 PM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


But actually, this is an ad for DDB. Of course they released it. This isn't really for the WWF, or even to win an award at Cannes - this is how they can project an image of cutting-edgeness. So that when a company is looking for an agency to launch a new product and they need someone that is a bit "out there" they'll remember the crazy 9/11 ad and they'll talk to DDB.

It does not matter that the analogy in the ad is stupid - all that matters is you get the message that DDB is so creative that they'll even touch a shibboleth like 9/11 if it will help sell your product.

DDB - the choice of edgy confrontationalists.
posted by awfurby at 9:22 PM on September 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


There have been stable states in the past in which the earth was both completely frozen over, and others in which life existed only at the poles.

Yeah, it would be pretty funny if we solved our greenhouse gas issues, and then another ice age came around and fucked us, because that just happens sometimes.
posted by smackfu at 9:35 PM on September 3, 2009


The thing is to those 2000 odd people killed were *Americans*.

Not all were *Americans.*

Those killed on 9/11/01 in the attack on New York's Twin Towers: 2,603 (a subset of the overall fatalities incurred that day in Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.).

"Aside from the approximately 2,669 United States casualties, 329 foreign nationals [from more than 90 countries] also perished in the attacks."
posted by ericb at 10:28 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


*as well as those incurred that day in Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.*
posted by ericb at 10:29 PM on September 3, 2009


"Yeah, it would be pretty funny if we solved our greenhouse gas issues, and then another ice age came around and fucked us, because that just happens sometimes."

I think we've got the "stop an ice age" problem licked pretty good at this point, should that ever be necessary. Shifting from low to high gear isn't a problem, but going back into neutral is the tricky part.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:44 PM on September 3, 2009


I think we've got the "stop an ice age" problem licked pretty good at this point, should that ever be necessary.

wait wait--do we really?

also, I thought 9/11 was an inside job. no? still too soon? sigh.. [sits on hands]
posted by JaiMahodara at 1:08 AM on September 4, 2009


The thing is to those 2000 odd people killed were *Americans*. Each of their lives is at least 100 more valuable then a bunch of nobodies from the 3rd world. It's outrageous that the WWF doesn't understand this.

Because, clearly, that's what all the comments here (all from Americans, no doubt) are saying. Nobody's just been sort of dumbfounded by the odd logic of the add, outside of its exploitative nature. Or wondered whether the Indian Ocean tsunami was related to global warming. Or talked about the awards culture of ad agencies. Or cracked a bunch of jokes about professional wrestling.

But, hey, thanks for sharing your stereotype about everyone else having stereotypes.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:46 AM on September 4, 2009


"wait wait--do we really?"

Sure. Just dump a bunch of C02 in the air, and presto! No more ice age. ;)
posted by Kevin Street at 2:08 AM on September 4, 2009


heh...reminds me of farenheit 451 where jesus is just a character on tv used to hawk products...
posted by sexyrobot at 3:10 AM on September 4, 2009


WWF? Aren't they too busy making sure Vince McMahon has to blur the scratch logo out of old wrestling footage?
posted by inturnaround at 5:07 AM on September 4, 2009


The other WWF. (Warning: More tasteless than this ad.)
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 5:36 AM on September 4, 2009


Stylus Happenstance - see the According to the gang at Fark post above. I'd say it's more tasteful, because it's a complete parody. I find the idea of capitalizing on 9/11 for an ad, or to make a statement in an ad contest, is worse. 1980s Hulk Hogan is clearly not as tall as those buildings, and he is nothing if not a proud American, so the whole situation is absurd, and thus amusing.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:47 AM on September 4, 2009


No, this is how to use 9/11 footage offensively (warning, explicit sex and 9/11 footage, desecration of flags with bodily fluids, mockery of organized athletic events, NSFW NSFE NSFA).
posted by idiopath at 7:55 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who finds it odd that they didn't even go to the trouble of checking in what year the tsunami actually happened?
posted by Bangaioh at 11:16 AM on September 4, 2009


I don't really think this is offensive.

Maybe making some inaccurate comparisons - 9/11 was manmade, whereas the tsunami was natural - but not offensive in terms of describing the body count and how severe the situation is.
posted by kldickson at 11:19 AM on September 5, 2009


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