How things catch on fire


DDB Brasil is currently being lambasted the world over for a print ad that reportedly ran once in a Sao Paulo newspaper. But oh, what an ad. The best rundown at the moment is Barbara Lippert’s column on AdWeek. AdFreak is the blog that actually broke the story, and continues to update as it swirls out of control. But back to the ad.

Created for a local office of the World Wildlife Fund, the ad takes the idiotically offensive tack of trying to add bitchin’ relevance to the conservation message by comparing 9/11 to the 2005 Asian Tsunami. “If you thought 9/11 was bad, have we got a surprise for YOU!”

What’s worse, there’s a tv spot as well (scroll to the end of the excellent AdFreak article to watch…it’s even more offensive than the print), which both DDB and WWF are denying involvement in.

But it isn’t the first time ad wanks have pulled this grotesque rabbit from the hat. Why the firestorm on this one but, outside the insular comment battles on, not the kind of global condemnation that’s currently blasting out onto DDB Brasil? It’s deserved, definitely, but how did it happen?

For example, take a look at these gems from BDDP & Fils, Paris:

SolidariteTitanic SolidariteHiro

Not satisfied with the Titanic and 9/11, they also dig up the ghosts of Hiroshima and slap them into the yoke of their thin-premised message. And then there’s this:

Fondation_Nicolas_Hulot and this  Cobis

And, with more subtlety and heart:


…but still disgusting considering you’re trying to sell newspapers by (a) portraying a wartime event that killed 140,000 people and (b) hinting that you’d better be up on your news because…your family and everyone you know could explode this morning?

And there are probably more horrific appropriations of other people’s pain in the service of advertising, if one wanted to keep digging through (One does not.)

So why the global outrage over this one in particular? Was it that much more offensive? Was it because it actually dramatized the moment of destruction? Or was it the high-profile client, WWF? Or because it happened to get into the right hands on Twitter and blogs, breaking through the adwonk barrier to become part of the culture at large? Because it posted on a Tuesday?

Who knows?

And, what’s the difference between these awful misappropriations of tragedy and this exchange from Team America:

Spottswoode: From what I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.N.C.E has gathered, it would be 9/11 times 100.
Gary Johnston: 9/11 times a hundred? Jesus, that’s…
Spottswoode: Yes, 91,100.

Oh wait. There is a difference. That’s satire. That’s mocking exactly what these ads are selling. Go, Team America!

UPDATE: Even more examples of 9/11 ads that seemed to have caused less kerfuffle than the WWF ones above, via Adland and also mentioned at AdFreak.


1 Comment

Filed under A Little Horrifying, Ad Fail, Advertising

One response to “How things catch on fire

  1. Pingback: Faking it « Notchweiner is

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