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WWF Apologizes for Doctored Polar Bear Image In Climate Campaign

Written by UUTISET

wwf polar bear thin ice

Environmental NGO WWF Finland has apologized for using a retouched photo of a polar bear and cub standing on a tiny ice floe, apparently adrift in an ocean.

However, the organization’s communications head, Anne Brax, also defended the use of the image as an advertising tool commonly used as shorthand for climate change and its impact on arctic regions, rather than as a news item.

The photo was used as part of an anti-climate change fundraising campaign aimed at students participating in Finland’s annual “taksvärkki” or “day’s work” program, where middle schoolers work for a day to collect money for worthy causes.

The image used in the campaign was originally shot by nature photographer Steven Kazlowski and depicts a polar bear and a cub. In the original photo, however, the polar bears are set against an icy landscape with no ocean in sight.

Alongside the manipulated image used in the WWF Finland campaign is the text “sulaa hulluutta kun ilmasto lämpenee”, which roughly translated means “pure madness as the climate warms”, with a play on the word “sulaa”, which also means “to melt” in Finnish.

WWF Finland: “We Made A Mistake”

Tabloid daily Iltalehti first reported on the social media dust-up the image caused, following which Yle spoke with WWF Finland’s Anne Brax. She stressed that the photo was used for advertising and not for news purposes.

“Like all other organizations, we used a composite picture in the ad. Collages or composite pictures or otherwise manipulated photos are used in marketing to emphasize a message and for visual impact,” she commented.

“In our advertising, ice hockey players, polar bears and Saimaa ringed seals have been used on the same ice floe to [signal] that we should preserve our snowy and icy winters,” the comms chief added.

Brax noted that the polar bear image came from WWF’s international image bank and that agreements are always made with photographers regarding the use of their material.

However, she admitted that the NGO made a mistake in assuming that the photo would be seen as an advertising image rather than an actual situation.

“We have made a mistake and we deeply regret it,” she said, adding that advertising photos should clearly indicate that they have been retouched.

“We are sorry that the photo used in our ad did not make this clear enough,” Brax observed.

Read more at Uutiset

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