Both DDB and WWF are taking huge amounts of flak for the ad, and AdFreak says that last night DDB Brasil posted a joint DDB-WWF message on their website, stating in part:
“WWF Brasil and DDB Brasil would like to jointly express their regret for the unfortunate incident involving the ‘Tsunami’ ad for World Wildlife Fund Brasil. The ad does not convey either the philosophy of the client or that of its advertising agency. It was created and approved in late 2008, mistakenly, and was solely the result of lack of experience on the part of a few professionals from both parties involved. In no way was it done in bad faith or with disrespect to American suffering. WWF Brasil and DDB Brasil acknowledge that such an ad never should have been made, approved or published. We reiterate our apologies to all those who may have been offended by it…”
The article further states that the creative team responsible is “no longer with the agency.”
But it now turns out that the WWF has disclaimed all responsibility for the ad, denying that they sanctioned it. The New York Daily News is reporting that WWF officials claim that they never approved — and never would have approved — the concept:
“We are just utterly appalled,” said WWF spokeswoman Leslie Aun.
“This ad is not something that anyone in our organization would ever have signed off on.”
The image was presented by admen from the agency DDB Brasil to WWF officers in Brazil and quickly rejected, Aun said.
“You hear a lot of concepts in meetings. We assumed it was dead and gone. But it appears now that someone submitted it to a competition,” she said…”
Is it possible that an agency, so enamored of its “creative concept” could simply take their idea and ran with it, despite the client’s rejection? An agency whose website’s main page trumpets the beauty of breaking and abolishing rules? An agency in search of awards? You decide:
In fact, is it within the realm of possibility that such an agency could even go a step farther in their self-aggrandizement and create an actual ad spot based on the print ad, client’s wishes notwithstanding? Well, no-one’s great surprise, there actually is a video version floating around, of which DDB disclaims all knowledge. They’re shocked, shocked, I say, to find this :30 spot that looks so dramatically like their admitted work. However, a commenter at AdAge makes the point with perfect clarity:
“‘A DDB Brasil spokesperson in Sao Paulo said a video version of the ad being circulated on the internet was not done or authorized by the agency or the client….[A]nd don’t know who created it.’
Because complete strangers are always picking print ads at random that ran once and duplicating the exact same art perfectly for a :30 spot. No, yeah, happens all the time.”
The video is not only as shameful as the print ad, but far more disturbing to watch. It depicts the first two planes flying into the Twin Towers, and then shows hundreds more planes flying into the city with the same intent. The print ad is unsettling enough, but the video is absolutely devastating.
DDB and DDB Brasil need to do some soul-searching on this one. Regardless of whether the WWF actually did initially approve the original ad, the agency is getting huge black eye because of all the bad press being generated. If it turns out that anyone associated with the agency, no matter how remotely, created the video, there will be an even bigger price to pay.
It won’t be a question of public relations or damage control or how many heads will roll. It’ll be a question of how many of DDB’s clients, including blue chip accounts like McDonalds, Anheuser Busch, T-Mobile, and Volkswagen, will wish to do business with an agency who is facing threats of massive boycott because someone in Creative got a little too clever.
DDB owes a huge apology to America and to every country which had a citizen perish in the attacks of September 11, 2001.