Rejected WWF Terror Ad Hit The Web Anyway

September 1, 2009       Michele Donohue      

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) US sent hundreds of messages via Twitter in the space of an hour trying to curb backlash against an advertisement using the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to illustrate climate change effects in an advertisement the organization did not commission.

WWF-US is responding to people via Twitter, tweeting “WWF is working 2 confirm legitimacy of ad & source. It was NOT created by WWF-US & we strongly condemn messaging & images.”

The advertisement shows numerous planes heading toward the World Trade Center towers and the copy reads, “The tsunami killed 100 times more people than 9/11. The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.”

Click here to see the image.

In an official statement, WWF-US, based in Washington, D.C., posted to its site, ““WWF strongly condemns this offensive and tasteless ad and did not authorize its production or publication.  It is our understanding that it was a concept offered by an outside advertising agency seeking our business in Brazil. The concept was summarily rejected by WWF and should never have seen the light of day. It is an unauthorized use of our logo and we are aggressively pursuing action to have it removed from websites where it is being currently featured. We strongly condemn the messages and the images portrayed in this ad. On behalf of WWF, here in the US and around the world, we can promise you this ad does not in any way reflect the thoughts and feelings of the people of our organization.”

The advertisement was created by advertisement agency DDB Brazil and pitched to WWF Brazil, which was rejected by organization, according to Steve Ertel, senior director of media relations and external communications for WWF.

WWF-US sent out duplicate tweets nearly 40 times in just five minutes from its Twitter account, @WWFUS, and more than 100 tweets in an hour as the link is passed through Twitter. Ertel said WWF-US was using all its social media presences, including Twitter and Facebook, to handle the situation and the organization was reaching out to blogs that posted the advertisement.  

WWF-US’s first response on Twitter was to the advertising, which exploded on the social media site with countless tweets of links to the image, at approximately 2:52 p.m. Reactions on the micro blog site included calling the ad “tasteless,” “disgusting” and “peculiar.” WWF-US has over 4,880 followers on Twitter.

The ad also won a 2009 Merit Award in the Public Service/Political Print category for single ad in newspaper or magazines from The One Show, which awards advertising in categories such as print, television, new media and design. Ertel said the advertising agency wasn’t authorized to use the WWF logo, featuring a panda bear.  The One Show did not return calls for comment.

A statement released by DDB Brazil to The NonProfit TImes said, “The ‘Tsunami’ ad for World Wildlife Fund Brasil was created by a team at DDB Brasil in December 2008. The team in question is no longer with the Agency. DDB Brasil apologizes to anyone who was offended or affected by the ad. It should never have been made and it does not portray the philosophy of the agency.”

Ertel said the organization was still investigating the advertisement and the unauthorized use of the WWF logo with its legal team and what necessary actions will have to take place.

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