Note to Agencies: Being Insensitive to Tragedies Does Not Win Business.

Earlier this week, I happened to be on Google Reader and saw an interesting article on Advertising Age’s RSS feed where they highlighted this rather horrific piece of work created by an agency in Brazil called Tribbo Post. After watching the video piece, you’d get the impression that it was for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF – not the wrestling organization), but in a stern rebuttal and absolute denial by the pro-planet organization, the WWF states that they “strongly condemn” the ad – in fact, they didn’t even commission the ad!

WWF strongly condemns this offensive and tasteless ad and did not authorize its production or publication… The concept was summarily rejected by WWF and should never have seen the light of day. It is an unauthorized use of our logo and we are aggressively pursuing action to have it removed from websites where it is being currently featured. We strongly condemn the messages and the images portrayed in this ad…

This was taken from a press release from the World Wildlife Fund issued on September 1. But just what was this horrible ad that was created that would cause such malice and appalling demeanor? It was released right as we’re approaching the 8th anniversary of the tragedy of September 11. And was it even getting the message across? No.

Since it appears that Tribbo Post has removed the video from YouTube, I did manage to find the video on another website and took screenshots of it – just seemed a bit inappropriate to post the whole thing. Here’s what the video looked like:

Tribbo Post WWF campaign screenshot #1

In this first screenshot, the camera panned on the New York City skyline pre-September 11 when the World Trade Center was still standing. Then, all of sudden, you’re forced to relive this terror attack all over again with two planes colliding with the Twin Towers.

Tribbo Post WWF campaign screenshot #2

But the video gets much worse as the directors of this horrendous piece of work decide to have several other planes proceed towards the city, making it seem like it’s a MUCH bigger terrorist attack.

Tribbo Post WWF campaign screenshot #3

The call to action here with this faux WWF video is that the directors thought that to get the message across, they’d compare 9/11 with the tsunami disaster that claimed 280,000 people – which is apparently 100 times more people that died on that fateful day in 2001.

Seriously, how can an agency think that making light of a terror attack on US soil be used for comparison towards advancing one’s cause for good? I’m assuming that Tribbo Post was hoping that through this unsolicited attempt to pitch the WWF, they thought it would be good? Well unfortunately they’re wrong. Tragedies are the proverbial electric third-rail in advertising (or at least one of them). You need to understand them and make absolutely sure that the message you’re trying to send is on par with the sensitivities of the victims and their families.

To me, this 9/11-tsunami video is nothing more than a genuine example of advertising agencies just NOT getting it. Here’s the last lines of the piece: The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.

According to AdAge, there’s a huge flaw in this sentence (among other things) that is also especially troublesome:

…it shows the creators not only to be tone-deaf but also to be scientific idiots: Tsunamis, after all, have nothing to do with preservation or conservation. They’re typically caused by earthquakes or other geological forces, which, last time we checked, are not affected by animal extinction, deforestation or global warming.

Regardless of how idiotic an agency can be, it doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that you don’t compre the death tolls of two major tragedies in the world to one another. I’m not more inclined to believe your message that if I don’t take care of the earth, it’ll destroy more people than 9/11. Rather, I’m going to think that you’re just completely insensitive and trying to push your agenda on us thinking that we’ll acknowledge the issue via sympathy.

I’m glad that the World Wildlife Fund has distanced themselves from this abomination and have acknowledged that it’s an unsolicited work submitted by Tribbo Post. There are better ways to encourage preservation of the earth and by mocking these disasters, you’re going to come up with more heat from people than actual action and buy-in.

Note: When I initially tweeted this video, I received a reply back from the WWF with their response that reads “WWF strongly condemns ad and apologizes to 9-11 victims and families. http://bit.ly/IQ1xR

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."