Pascal Gunsch

WT2 WWF Advertisments


Prescribed question:
How and why is a social group represented in a particular way?

Title of the text for analysis:
‘You can help. Stop global warming’ advertisements from the WWF

Part of the course to which the task refers:
Part 2: Language and mass communication

My critical response will:
– Explain and briefly analyse the chosen advertisements
– Explain the social groups that are represented by these advertisements
– Explain how these social groups are represented in a particular way.
– Explain why these social groups are represented in a particular way.

Written task

How and why is a social group represented in a particular way?

Advertisers try to be original in order to stand out from the advertisements of other brands. They want to emphasise on the good qualities of their products. This way, they hope more customers will buy their product. On the other hand, for an organisation like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), it is much harder to stand out from other advertisements. They don’t sell a product and they don’t have customers, but try to motivate people to change their behaviour to conserve the current wildlife and its habitats.

A well-known series of advertisements are the ‘You can help. Stop global warming’ advertisements. These focus on the ways people can help save the environment. Underneath each picture is a caption with a suggestion, such as ‘By turning off your TV, stereo and computer when not using them, you can help prevent this [i.e. climate change].’ In this essay I will briefly analyse the advertisements and then explain how the animals are represented in the way they are. Then, I will consider some of the reasons as to why these animals are portrayed like that.

The ‘You can help. Stop global warming’ campaign includes three different print advertisements. The images are all black and white, which sets a sad or even depressed tone. The animals and the objects they use or stand next to are in colour, to highlight them. The animals all are unhappy and appear quite sad and hopeless. Each print has a caption with a suggestion, and the word ‘stop’ in the slogan is printed on an item associated with the suggestion. For example, for the suggestion mentioned above, the word stop is printed on a power plug. Furthermore, the prints contain the text: ‘Animals around the world are losing their habitats due to climate change.’ The hypothetical results of them losing their habitats or homes is shown in the prints.

The first print depicts a street with a bench on the side walk. On this bench, a seal lies asleep with its flippers together. A newspaper covers the seal as if it were a blanket. The second print shows a polar bear sitting in a dirty alley. Next to it is a woollen blanket and an empty tin, which probably contained some sort of fish. The third print show an adult and a young penguin in an alley with waste containers. In front of them is a barrel with burning garbage.

The animals are clearly depicted as if they were homeless people. This fits well into the context of them losing their homes. The stereotype of homeless people they represent live on the streets and eat from garbage or use garbage to produce heat. This is shown in the behaviour of the animals. The seal sleeps on a bench with a newspaper as a blanket, the polar bear eats food from the garbage, and the penguins use garbage as a source of heat. The dirty alleys they live in makes the imagery even more powerful, since another aspect of the homeless people stereotype is that they live in dirty alleys near waste containers.

The WWF made a good statement by representing these animals as homeless people. The association we can make with homeless people makes their advertisement very effective. Many people sympathise with homeless people and when they come across them, it is very likely they will care for them. However, not many people will think about the ‘homeless’ animals the WWF is protecting, though they are mostly willing to care for them. Another similarity between homeless people and the animals is that they need help of others to survive. For the animals, this might even be more the case than for homeless people. In reality, the advertisements can’t be true. A polar bear, for example, wouldn’t be able to open a tin with fish, or a penguin wouldn’t be able to start a fire using garbage. The similarity between the homeless animals and homeless people in the ads is an important factor for its success.

Another important factor in the effectiveness of these advertisements is that they affect our emotions. The sad living conditions of the animals that are sketched in these prints are unfavourable and people will want to change it. They will feel empathy for them. The caption with the print will then give a concrete example of how to achieve that. Furthermore, the animals rely on the generosity of others, just like the homeless people they are compared with do.

To conclude, the WWF advertisement is focussed on the similarity between homeless people and animals that are losing their habitat. Using this comparison, they affect the emotions of the audience by making them sympathise and feel empathy for the animals. The WWF uses this to try to motivate people to change their behaviour and save the habitats of those animals.

Total word count written task: 805

Stimulus material

Print 1: Seal


Print 2: Polar bear


Print 3: Penguins


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