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What Were They Thinking? The Worst Ad of 2009
By: Jeff Louis
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As 2009 comes to a close, the "best-of" and "worst-of" lists are making their way to Internet sites. While these lists are usually the product of each writer's personal taste, there is at least one that is, without a doubt, the most tasteless, unappealing, and poorly thought-out advertising campaign/ad ever made.  

Yes, it's the World Wildlife Fund's Tsunami campaign.

The print ad was created in 2008 and shows several large planes headed directly toward New York City (one that still shows the World Trade Center towers as the main feature of the skyline). The aircraft are aimed toward the city.

The headline reads: "The Tsunami Killed 100 Times More People Than 9/11."

The ad appeared at the One Show and actually won an award for merit. Next, It appeared at Cannes. If anyone took notice, there weren't any headlines. DDB Brasil included the ad in a press kit, and the WWF started receiving complaints about the advertisement. Inexplicably, the WWF denied the ad ran or received approval and placement.

The WWF and DDB Brasil then admitted the ad had been approved, but it had never been circulated. Unfortunately, the ad did win an award at the One Show. At this point, it was discovered that the ad ran in a Brazilian newspaper.

As with the Tiger Woods debacle, things went from bad to worse in moments.  A television spot appeared on YouTube and Creativity.

In the video, we see two planes hit the World Trade Center towers, and then the screen shakes as more planes enter the picture. All are headed for New York City. The video proves powerful, and one wonders what terrorists might have done with more planes. The video was pulled off YouTube by DDB Brasil, but the damage was done. 

The ads make their point: Tsunamis are powerful. Unfortunately, they do so by portraying the worst terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. 

DDB and the WWF have taken the blame, and the the whole controversy seems to have been been forgotten -- somewhat.

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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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