Monday, September 21, 2009

Double Whammy

No matter how far removed one is from society or the world, talking about 9/11 will always be somewhat of a taboo subject. In Chapter 6 of Practices of Looking, Sturken and Cartwright discuss how an advertisement's message can dramatically change with the addition of powerful and/or contradicting text. They give an example of what seems like an ad for fur coats, but when text is added, it is ultimately an anti-fur ad (210-211).

The following ad is by the WWF in Brazil:

The following is the link to the video version of the ad which, to me, is even more powerful:

What I mean when I titled this post as a double whammy is to emphasize that not only can the text in images be powerful as stated by Sturken and Cartwright, but the image can be immensely powerful as well. In the case of this ad, one could make the case the the images are more striking than the words.

There are instances in the world of advertisement where the images are so powerful that words are unnecessary. But in this particular example, words were needed in order to deliver the creators' message. It is, therefore, similar to Sturken and Cartwright's example of the anti-fur ad in that the ad, based solely on the images, looks like it is about one thing, but when viewed as a whole with the text, turns out that it is about a completely different thing. What the makers (WWF Brazil) of this ad were trying to communicate was obviously to tell people to respect the planet that we live in. But the way in which they communicated their message backfired obviously with the belittling of the 9/11 tragedies.

Exploiting one national tragedy in order to raise awareness for another is never right. Ever.

Powerful? Yes.
Controversial? Yes.
Offensive? Yes.
Appropriate? No and Never.


  1. I got goosebumps from seeing the commercial. I agree that we will never and should never be able to use the tragedy of 9/11 to compare with other tragedies or to create parodies. I think WWF was wrong in using numbers to argue that the tsumani/our planet is destructive and therefore needs more respect. No matter how many people died in each occasion, I think it's a terrible argument. They are equally unfortunate events that may have been preventable but happened.

    Just a note: WWF Brazil apologized for this ad and let go of the creative team behind the ad, but it still won an award and is in the Cannes film festival. It was not intended to be released so near the date 9/11.

  2. Turns out it was fake...?