Climate Change Ad Critique

Climate change is arguably the scariest force acting upon the world today. It is something that affects everyone regardless of class, age, gender, nationality, or anything.  Most everyone agrees that climate change is a problem, yet there is not a worldwide consensus about what must be done to stop it. Continually, world leaders pass the buck of responsibility to someone else hoping the problem will solve itself.
The advertisement in the New Yorker by Conservation International addresses the base issue and fear of climate change by signifying pollution through signifying deforestation.  By highlighting deforestation, this ad connotes climate change.
What makes this ad most effective is the symbols used to signify and connote the “myth” of climate change.  The forest in the ad is shaped like a trachea with two lungs.  The brown patches on the lungs are reminiscent of the often viewed “smoker’s lungs” posters hung in school nurse’s lounges and health education classrooms.  The code signified through this ad is the view that tarred and blackened lungs make it hard for one to breathe. So, if carried out to this ad’s conclusions, a deforested “lung forest” makes it hard for us to breathe.
The line, and then paragraph of copy on this ad further emphasizes the relationship between the viewer and the signified climate change.
The first copy, “Lost There, Felt Here” is placed two-thirds of the way down the ad. Using the rule of thirds, it gives ample room for the main image above, space for the paragraph below, while still occupying and drawing our attention.  It is a matter-of-fact statement that quickly brings the connection between what the viewer sees in the ad, and what the viewer is feeling wherever he or she is located.  Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of climate change is that its effects are so incremental and felt over such a large area, it is difficult for one person to realize and grasp its full force.  While most people now agree that climate change is happening, they are incapable of feeling its effects on them.  This ad attempts to qualify these feelings by suggesting that there is a direct connection between deforestation and climate change; and that that same connection can be felt when we breathe.
This connection is quantified a bit more in the paragraph of copy found below “Lost There, Felt Here,” where Conservation International provides the statistic that slash and burn deforestation techniques account for 20% of all carbon emissions, twice the amount that all cars, trucks and planes in the world combined emit.  They assume that their viewer has the general knowledge that carbon emissions directly relate to global warming.
While this ad does call on the viewer to connote the “myth” of global warming and climate change by understanding the symbols contained in blackened lungs and deforested forests, its main goal is to get the viewer to sign up on its website and presumably give money.  This appeal is masked as an invitation to join “Team Earth.” Those words, Team Earth, attempt to show not only that fighting climate change cannot be done alone, it also brings back the feelings of a team, especially the team of Captain Planet.  A team is an organization in which a group of people work together, and share a bond to complete a task.  This ad taps into the human want and need of being with a group.
This ad is successful because it makes the viewer feel as if there is a problem that is directly affecting him.  This problem, while generally seen as unsolvable alone – one small man against an army – when joined by others on Team Earth, the solution may become a reality, “one acre at a time.” The final words of the ad threaten us all, claiming that it is not just the viewer, but “we’ll all feel it.”


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