The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is the world’s best known independent conservation body focused on safeguarding the natural world. Its main focus sits on conservation, tackling the threat of climate change with its big global campaigns and promoting the sustainable use of resources, promoting ways helping to change the way in which we live.
This advertisement on climate changes focuses on the possible effect of climate change on mutation. How exactly this is to occur isn’t explained at all. While we can assume mutation, in relation to climate change may have its basis in the effects radiation from Ultra Violet rays from the thinning of the Ozone layer this is not gone into. Instead, we have the slogan “stop climate change before it changes you” and a picture of a fish-man half breed. This, of course is somewhat ridiculous. In real life mutation doesn’t happen like it does in sci-fi films. Half-fish half-man super hero’s aren’t popping up all over the globe. Spiderman isn’t real. Astronauts don’t come back from space with the magical powers of invisibility, fire, super-stretching or having turned into gigantic stone men in tiny shorts! But, if we know that this isn’t really the face of mutation. Why does an advert like this work?
One reason adverts like this are effective because they use a tool called “The Extreme Consequence Template”. The idea of this tactic is to present an extreme consequence in order to emphasise the importance of the point they are trying to make. Usually when this approach is employed, consequences are based on a true fact (but they take a key attribute of the argument to the extreme) and this absurdity and unrealism of the consequence is obvious and recognisable. In this case mutation caused by climate change is arguably a fact. This has been taken to the extreme by the placement of our fishy friend. We know if we don’t help stop climate change we’re not going to mutate into a fish-monster, but this branch of advertising is effective none-the-less.
Another reason advertising like this works so well is because fear appeals! Let’s be honest, the idea of turning into some sort of fish half-breed is scary and the picture presented is hardly raindrops on roses! A fear appeal presents a risk (mutation through climate change) and then describes a suggested form of protective action (help WWF stop climate change) (Hoog et al 2005). This works well with advertising and persuasion as a state of fear is an unpleasant emotional state which we are then motivated to prevent ( Ruiter et al 2001). In order to avoid the fear induced from the idea of mutation caused by climate change we are thus motivated to help prevent it.
Goldenberg, J., Mazusky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). Fundamental Templates of Quality Advertisements. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.
Hoog, N., Stroebe, W., & John, B. F. (2005). The impact of fear appeals on processing and acceptance of action recommendations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 24-33.