This is a print ad that was created for the World Wildlife Fund by an ad agency in Brazil. DDB Brazil says the ad was presented to the WWF in Dec 2008 and was approved and ran once in a small local paper. The president of the company says after he saw it, he ordered that the ad be pulled.
After that, there was a whole bunch of bullshitting and hiding behind apology statements, a segment on Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person In The World”, and the Brazilians say it was a horrible mistake and they apologize for any disrespect, blahblahblah.
But then, the “Tsunami” video which appears to be the companion piece to the print ad appeared. And not only was it “mistakenly” e-mailed to the world but also shows up as an entry into the Cannes Lions Festival. The description for the entry says,
Brief Explanation: We see two airplanes blowing up the WTC’s Twin Towers. Lettering reads that 2,819 people were killed in the tragedy. Cuts back to image. We see hundreds of airplanes invading the screen. Before they hit the buildings, enters second lettering reminding us that the tsunami killed 100 times more people. The film then asks us to respect a planet that is brutally powerful.
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DDB Brazil has claimed it had nothing to do with either the leaking OR the creating of this video – they actually said that the video was not done by nor authorized by them or the client. DDB execs claim they don’t know who created it. Uh huh. Because everyone knows what a thrill it is to sneak into ad agencies and use their equipment to create unauthorized campaigns – good one, Brazil.
Regardless of who is lying, advertising aims to create images that are powerful, evocative and lasting. And both of the large scale losses of life being portrayed in these ads are something I personally don’t think we should forget about. But I’m not sure how I feel about an ad such as this. I can see people thinking it is insensitive or inflammatory, but to whose memory? The people who died in the 9/11 attacks or the people who died in the Indonesian tsunami? How do you measure such loss? Perhaps the imagery doesn’t go far enough to be useful, perhaps the rawness of the explosions is too overwhelming, leaving one feeling as though they hold a handful of tragedy and a hatful of pain — which do you experience first?
I certainly don’t know, but I will try to understand my feelings about it as I hope that videos like this are created for more than just a chance to win a fucking award.