Climate Change Campaigns


By: Samantha Coppola /


Through an array of images and advertisements that call attention to environmental issues,

various species of animals are used to invoke sympathy in humans. In gaining the viewer’s

sympathies on behalf of the helpless animals, the goal is then to empower the viewer to help/save

that animal, which in doing so requires him/her to acknowledge the environmental issues in the

human’s environment in correlation to the animal’s habitats.

There are several ways in which advertisements use the animal image as an emotional trigger for

their audiences. Depending on the type of animal and how it is portrayed can send very different

messages. Generally speaking, the cuter and well known the animal is, such as a polar bear,

tiger or giant panda, the more people care and sympathize with it as opposed to ‘ugly’ animals

or insects that are typically disregarded. Additionally, the representation of the animal and the

environment it is placed in also dictates the message’s intentions.

Before this recent wave of spectacle presentation where ads now focus more on the affect they

have on the viewer by catering to the audience’s emotions, advertisements typically used to

provide information in a direct, statistical manner, such as the images below.

Image Source: InocUsol


Image Source: Washington State Dept of Ecology


“In terms of resource exhaustion, pollution, global warming, deforestation and habitat

destruction, and animal cruelty and rights abuse, most people manage to largely ignore it.

Creatively constructed print and television advertisements however, are more captivating and

tend to affect a lot more people” (Msaleem 1).

For example in Wolfgang Kaehler’s photograph in The Guardian in June 2007 for Environment

Day, with the theme being ‘Melting Ice,’ the image emphasizes the negative effects climate

change can have on various ecosystems and their biodiversities by highlighting an animal. In the

caption next to the picture the organizer, which was the United Nations Environment Program,

stated that it “wants to highlight the effects of global warming on polar ecosystems and the

communities that live there.” All of the crisp whiteness and detail of the glacier in addition

to the blue sky give the impression that the wild is a truly beautiful sanctuary that one might

enjoy getting lost in. Ultimately the key component in this picture is the penguin, particularly

its posture which emphasizes how meek and curious the defenseless animal is. This tactic

essentially brings forth pity from viewers, yet also sparks curiosity as to why that split is so

evident. The final message that this image shows is of great importance; and that is the blatantly

large crack right down the middle of this penguin’s habitat.

Image Source: The Guardian

Having a powerless, cute animal looking directly at the split in the snow draws further attention

to how global warming is having major effects in other areas of the world that the general

population does not give thought to on a daily basis.

On the other hand, this next ad exemplifies how animals are many times pictured in exaggerated

manners, emphasizing the urgent need for action to save our environment. Some of these

photos that place the animals within a human’s reality, ultimately, expose our relationship with

the animal, that detached relationship being distanced from one another. Acknowledging the

possibility of these animals in a human environment calls for empathy on the human’s part

because we picture ourselves as that animal and how horrible/confusing it must feel to be in a

foreign place.

Here the placement of Arctic animals in a city, a parallel to the stereotypes of homeless people,

gives the viewer a sense of uneasiness because it seems odd to think about exotic species in our

homes and cities. This giant, furry polar bear and seal belong in their natural habitat; so the

image of them in an alien environment makes us question the possible results if the human race

fails to take action and preserve the planet.

Image Source: WWF

Image Source: WWF

The establishers of the Earth Day Network (EDC) created a “global mosaic” that focused on the

chosen theme “The Face of Climate Change” where they put together images of people, animals

and places directly affected or threatened by climate change. “The idea behind the theme is to

personalize the challenge climate change presents by spreading the stories of those individuals,

animals and places affected through imagery” (Sheer, Moss 1). The mosaic aims to expose the

relationship that both people and animals have with the earth, emphasizing how regardless of the

species, climate change effects the environment in negative ways, therefore hurting all of us on

this Earth. In this example, empathy can be attributed to both humans and animals.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 12.25.25

Image Source: Earth Day Network


-After seeing both of these videos, what are some of the similarities and differences between the


-Do you think one was one was more effective than the other in the respect that the images/

events in the ad triggered a strong emotional response? If yes, then how so?

-Do you think the use of animal images in some of the advertisements you’ve seen helps make

the environmental aspect of the message more clear and important?






Leave a reply