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WWF+DDB+9/11 =

From the October Zeitgeist…

WWF+DDB+9/11 =

Dedicated Zeitgeist readers will recall with sepia-toned whimsy the July issue where we highlighted the recent Domino’s case and the importance of a rapid and decisive damage limitation strategy to deal with an unexpected crisis. A couple of parties who may lament not being on our distribution list are the WWF and DDB Brasil who faced with the noble task of saving the worlds endangered species managed to antagonise a large number of potential donors with an insensitive campaign before embarking on a very public soap opera of denials, rebuttals and admissions in a marvellous example of how not to do things.

The fun started after DDB Brasil produced a print ad showing a large number of airliners pointing their noses at downtown Manhattan in an attempt to show how powerful nature is by contrasting the death tolls from the 2005 tsunami and 9/11.

What was overlooked on this work for the World Wildlife Fund is that the World Wide Web has a global reach and that there might be some people out there who wouldn’t take kindly to 9/11 being trivialised.

First a print ad appeared. It was produced on spec, said DDB Brasil, and never saw the light of day. Then it emerged it ran once in a local paper, whereupon Sergio Valente, president of DDB Brasil, reported “When I saw it, I said, ‘Stop running that ad’.”

Then a TV spot surfaced. Soon after, it was also revealed that the campaign was submitted for award consideration – at Cannes no less, and the One Show.

DDB then admitted creating the print ad, but denied any involvement with the spot, which was curious as, one blog mentions, “the video’s intro features a title card with DDB Brasil’s name on it.

WWF “strongly condemn[ed]” the work that they said was unauthorised. The following day they reneged: their previous statement “may not have been completely accurate”.

Finally, DDB admitted to having made the TV spot, WWF admitted approving the ads. With their faces as red as their hands, both parties issued a joint apology.

The imbroglio was covered by curious amateur bloggers, dedicated advertising journals and major, respected broadsheets newspapers alike. Curiously, the ad, doubtless provocative, actually went unnoticed when it won an award which goes to show how the bungled reaction of two organisations fuelled the resulting furore. After all, this is certainly not the type of publicity WWF (unlike more risqué brands) would wish to court.

At least two lessons can be learned from this fiasco; If something goes wrong, apologise and take ownership immediately; and don’t create adverts belittling 9/11.

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  1. July 4, 2011 at 10:29 am

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