WWF’s 9/11 Brazil ad causes worldwide blogger outrage
Printed only once in a local Brazilian newspaper, now criticized globally via the web. A damaging example of the power of digital and its sometimes unintended effect on brands.
An ad made by DDB Brazil for WWF was printed only once in late 2008, in a small local paper in Sao Paolo before being pulled. The ad shows a shocking image of lower Manhattan, the World Trade Centre still standing, surrounded by airplanes flying toward the city. This image was made to illustrate the number of lives lost in the 2004 Asian tsunami, which was much greater than those lost in the terrorist attack in 2001. A video including this image was submitted to this years ‘One Show’ in New York and months after the ad was pulled a blogger has came across the full video showing the events of 9/11 followed by this image on the show’s archives. The blogger posted it online and the image has spread fast around the blogosphere causing a vicious and angry uproar with posts, comments and tweets circulating the news. Following these events both DDB Brazil and WWF have issued statements on their websites apologising for the ad and stating that it was due to the “inexperience of some professionals on both sides and not bad faith or disrespect toward American suffering” that the ad was ever released. Both companies deny any involvement with the making of the video claiming it was made by an unknown source that used their image.
Behind the news:
This is one of many examples of how powerful digital can be in the advertising world. A small local mistake made in one market is now quickly made global, leading to either positive or devastatingly negative consequences for brands. Mistakes such as these highlight the importance of cross-cultural checks regardless of the market as in the advertising world today every marketing campaign is judged and therefore may offend consumers globally.