The Ad of the week: "Tsunami" (World Wildlife Fund - Brazil)

New York, New York
September 9, 2011

This week’s Ad-of-the-Week goes to the unclaimed video version of the controversial (yet award-winning) 9/11-themed print-ad: "Tsunami"

This now-infamous ad aroused a big scandal involving the ad agency responsible (DDB Brazil) and WWF (World Wildlife Fund).

Copy: "The tsunami killed 100 times more people than 9/11. The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it."

Right after its publication the ad was disclaimed by the Ad agency and by WWF-Brazil.

Soon though, DDB-Brazil apologized for the print version of the ad, and a rep there told the New York Daily News that the creative team behind it "is no longer with the agency."

Then both, WWF Brazil and DDB Brazil, claimed shared responsibility for the creation and initial approval of this ad.
“The ad does not convey either the philosophy of the client or that of its advertising agency." said in the apology press release.

" It was solely the result of lack of experience on the part of a few professionals from both parties involved.”

“In no way was it done in bad faith or with disrespect to American suffering. WWF Brazil and DDB Brazil acknowledge that such an ad never should have been made, approved or published.”
The video version of the ad was entered into the Cannes Festival later that year.

What a mess, huh? Anyway, here it goes: (Not before a warning and a disclaimer of my own)
(WARNING: The following video could be offensive to victims o people sensitive about the remembrance of the attack to the World Trade Center –WTC- in September 11, 2001 in New York City.)
Also, oHB does not award, support or celebrate in any way the manner in which the message of the following video was handled. The solely porpoise of this post is to study, analyze and debate the ethics of advertising towards sensitive issues.

Credits | Advertising Agency: DDB Brasil Publicidade, Sao Pablo, Brazil | Original title: “Aviões” | Aired: August 200

Too soon?
On an episode of 'Family Guy' (the TV Show) Peter said something wrong-but-funny about someone famous who recently died... immediately asking "Too soon?"

How long has to pass to be OK to feature a sensitive matter on an ad, or a movie? (Or, should it ever?)

The JFK assassination movie was a big controversy in the 90s, the musical Evita was outraging for many Argentines who didn’t go to the musical nor the movie.

Though 60 years have passed, the Pearl Harbor Attack seemed to still be a fresh memory in many Americans' minds when“Pearl Harbor, the movie" was released.

It was a blockbuster, but it was highly criticized and it provoked debates about the artistic license taken by its producers and director.

Would portraying the South-Asian tsunami, the Hurricane Catrina, or the Earthquake in Japan or Haiti be ethically correct?

The memory of 9/11 is till sensitive among not just Americans, but anyone who was alive in September 2001.

Since then, “Hollywood” tried to (somewhat unsuccessfully) squeeze in a movie or two featuring, sensitively, the 9/11 episodes.

I guess the fact that 9/11 is a sort of "universal," and a recognizable emotional mark that impacted a great deal of the planet makes anything related to it of great interest to people, and so, attractive to advertisers.

Over the past decade, the networks have lost millions by not airing any ads during 9/11 documentaries.

It’s not really clear when is, and when is not ethically-correct using the pain of others to advertise.

Advertising & 9/11
Ten years appears to be the time limit. Advertising Age (Ad Age) published an article that suggested that marketers are not willing to wait any longer and they are not letting this 10th anniversary pass on with out profit.

According to Ad Age's article, marketing and advertising are making a hesitant comeback to the day’s coverage, with brands sponsoring news segments and specials, and commercials coming back to the day’s programming.

Nevertheless, the story notes that advertisers are “treading carefully,” fully aware that this is still a day for remembrance and grief.

The same should hold true for publicists; important 9/11 stories should be brought to the media’s attention, but awful pitches that seek to capitalize on the newsworthiness of the day are still gross.

But there were some early attempts that had tried to “exploit” 9/11…

Too tasteless?
The WWF's "Tsunami" suspiciously resembles A LOT the-also-controversial (and banned) MTV print-ads. Though MTV was already known for this kind of controversial moves. (Does that makes it OK? (apparently not since they were banned)

Copy: 2,863 dead, 40 million infected worldwide, The world united against terrorism. It should do the same against AIDS.

Copy: 2,863 dead,630 million homeless people in the world, The world united against terrorism. It should do the same against poverty

Copy: 2,863 dead, 824 million undernourished people in the world, The world united against terrorism. It should do the same against hunger.

The kind of controversial ads that we are used to from WWF, PeTA, Greenpeace and other organisms as such are equally brutal, but less close to home.

So maybe because they came too close to home... they went too far?

9/11 ads gone wrong
So Here are other 9/11 ads gone wrong:

(Copy: "Security solutions around your house." by G4S - Germany)

(Copy:"Terrorism-related deaths since 2001: 11,377. Tobacco-related deaths since 2001: 30,000,000." by ASH 0 - New Zeland)

(Copy: Monday, 10 September 2001.The world can change in a day. Don't miss your daily edition of in-depth news.Cape Times. Know All About It. Cape Times, South Africa")

(Copy: "Last year, plastic bottles generated more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. Drink tap." by - USA)

("Collapse into Cool" by Starbucks - USA... Are we being oversensitive?)

(Copy: "Non-drinking water kills 8 million [people]persons a year" by Solidarités - France)

(Copy: "Rebuild it" by Lego-USA... Are we being oversensitive?)

(VSD Magazine-France)

(Copy: "Learn to anticipate" by Courrier - France)

(Copy: "There's More To See On Radio" by SABC Radio - South Africa)
"Comedy is tragedy plus time. For instance, the night Lincoln was shot, you couldn't make a joke about it, but now it's fair game, see? Tragedy plus time." — Lester, Crimes and Misdemeanors

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