Ed Driscoll

21st Century Schizoid Mad Men: The Sequel -- Updated

Here we go again — the latest 9/11-mocking botched ad campaign, this time from the Brazilian division of DDB Worldwide (whose initials stand for the agency’s founders, Doyle, Dane, and Bernbach), the ad agency employed — possibly for the last time — by the World Wildlife Fund:



Click the image to enlarge to full size to see the ad’s “Fire make sea gods angry” caption, to borrow from an Iowahawk riff from a few years ago. It reads:

“The tsunami killed 100 times more people than 9/11. The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.”

Ed Morrissey responds:

Wow!  Sounds like the Earth is the real terrorist.   I propose choking it to death with carbon dioxide!  If we implement cap-and-trade, the really brutal terrorist wins.

Even better than the potential lawsuit from their client is the award DDB-B won from The One Show this year.  Has the “merit” award ever been given to an unauthorized ad that was immediately disowned by the agency’s client?  Maybe DDB-B can pay its legal retainer with their plaque.

This is eerily reminiscent of several prior ad campaigns over the past decade. The most recent of which was first busted back in May by Caleb Howe of Red State.org, and was created by the international division of Ogilvy & Mather, the ad agency hired to promote the History Channel in South Africa. As you may remember, it featured such anti-American and anti-British ads such as this:


Much like the award DDB-B copped for its 9/11-themed ad, the History Channel’s campaign won a Clio award, before posts such as Caleb’s caused the History Channel and the ad industry’s Clio Awards to rapidly backtrack, pulling the ads off their site, and issuing mea culpas. I did a Silicon Graffiti video on this campaign back then:


And back in 2002, while the memories of 9/11 were that much more recent and raw, Starbucks briefly ran this horrid campaign, which seemed more appropriate as a textbook example of the sort of ads discussed in Wilson Bryan Key’s 1974 book, Subliminal Seduction, than moving frappachinos and lattes:


Similarly, I remember watching a CNN segment on this viral 2007 European travel agency video (with over 2.7 million views and counting on YouTube), and getting distinct 9/11 flashbacks as the airplane in the clip startles several onlookers before scraping office towers and then ditching into the sea:

[youtube Sw871vN2c18]

Regarding the latest campaign, the WWF was quick to Tweet anyone (such as myself) who mentioned it on Twitter with a canned reply:

WWF strongly condemns this offensive and tasteless ad and did not authorize its production or publication. http://bit.ly/3b4pRi

And as Ed Morrissey adds:

How badly did the ad agency DDB Brazil miscalculate on its new campaign for the World Wildlife Fund?  Badly enough that the WWF says they may sue DDB-B for releasing this print ad without authorization and with their logo prominently featured.

These sort of anti-American, tacitly pro-terrorism ads do seem to be a recurring trend in advertising agencies this decade. As I concluded my Silicon Graffiti video on the similarly botched History Channel campaign, AMC’s Mad Men series looks back at the lifestyle of Madison Avenue advertising men of the early 1960s through a gimlet eye. Whatever their excesses, the advertisers of the past knew that angering their potential customers was a sure way to lose a sale — not to mention tarnishing the reputation of the corporations that hired them.


Today’s advertisers? Well evidently, so-called progressive politics; in other words, the latest reincarnation of ideas that are over a century old, are more important than making money and moving merchandise.

But that’s progress, I guess.

Related: “The Reframing of 9/11.”

Update (9/2/09): The WWF has walked back their initial denial and admitted approving the ad, which actually did run, along with an accompanying YouTube clip digitally animating the horrific still image at the top of this post. Click here for details.

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