10 Powerful Public Awareness Ads About the Environment

WWF Desertification: Leopard Ad
Tom Chu

    When you are trying to get a message across, there are many ways to do so. When it comes to nonprofits, they tend to use a form of advertising that really catches your attention. Some are shocking, some emotive and others just really cool. Some are even controversial, such as this commercial by a British environmental group that had to be pulled due to graphic violence.

    However you feel about shock tactics, it can’t be denied that public awareness ads are pretty effective, at least at sticking in your mind. That is their ultimate purpose: to make you remember the message as a first step to making a change.

    Here are 10 powerful, striking public awareness ads about the environment.

    1. WWF Marine Protection Campaign: Fan Corals

    WWF Marine Protection Campaign: Fan Corals

    More than 70 percent of all plastic ends up in the ocean. Not only is this an alarming figure, but it is even more shocking when you think about the properties of plastic – mainly, that it doesn’t actively break down, with experts estimating that it takes 1,000 years to decompose.

    Even that may be a conservative estimate, as not enough time has passed since its creation to know for sure. Now just imagine that sitting in the ocean, slowly releasing chemicals as it degrades from the plastic and, occasionally, being swallowed by sea creatures – not good.

    2. Ondazul: Toilet

    Ondazul: Toilet Ad

    At first glance, this one might appear a little funny. After all, it is a man throwing a toilet over the side of a harbor. But if you look a little closer you see a chain attached to the man’s ankle, showing that he is seconds away from being pulled in and drowned. The message? Such actions have consequences, and eventually, you will have to face them.

    3. WWF River Pollution: Dissolvent

    WWF River Pollution: Dissolvent

    Think that what products you use have no true impact? This is sure to change your mind. A single can of dissolvent, which is automatically filtered back into bodies of water when it drains from your appliances, can pollute millions of gallons of water.

    Just think about that for a second: millions. This is in a world where much of the world is dying because they don’t have enough clean water. With this kind of behavior, that will eventually be us.

    4. WWF: Lungs

    WWF Forest Lungs Ad

    A complex image is created by two green lungs made of vegetation. One is partially uprooted, the trees gone. The message: We have to protect Mother Earth and “let her breathe” before it is too late – a simple meaning behind a really intense image.

    5. WWF Desertification: Leopard

    WWF Desertification: Leopard Ad

    One of the biggest threats to various species in the world today is desertification. This is the degradation of dry land caused mostly by the presence of humans who exploit the area as well as the increase in global temperature. This ad shows a cheetah that is facing death, breaking apart into dry sand, much like the land where he lives.

    6. Bund: Brown Bear

    Bund: Brown Bear Time Running Out Ad

    According to this ad, every 60 seconds a species dies out. That is a horrible thing to think about, and the advertisement used a very striking visual representation of an already alarming fact. It shows a bear caught in the hands of a clock, about to be crushed to death by the passing minute. That brings us to the text on the ad: “Every minute counts.”

    7. WWF: Crocodile

    WWF: Crocodile Painted Hand Ad

    There is a whole series of these ads, and each one is pretty amazing. They show different animals that have been intricately painted with huge amounts of detail. This one shows an alligator, each scale carefully crafted and a lot of texture making it appear realistic. The text above says: “Give a hand to wildlife.” The same campaign released an elephant, a toucan and several others.

    8. Surfrider Foundation Australia: Oil Spill

    Surfrider Foundation Australia - Oil Spill Ad

    Probably the most upsetting ad on this list, it shows how shocking imagery can be used to great effect to catch people’s attention. The picture shows a young mother laying on the beach, apparently unconscious and covered in oil, possibly dead.

    Next to her is her crying child, also covered in oil and watching the form of her unmoving parent. The message is that it isn’t only the oceans that suffer for things like oil spills and other manmade disasters. Haunting and hard to swallow, this is one image that will stick with you.

    9. WWF: Tarzan

    WWF Tarzan Ad

    Tarzan was in for a surprise with this ad. It shows the jungle hero swinging from a vine, but instead of finding another tree he finds thin air. According to the ad, 15 square kilometers of rainforest, home to both people and animals, disappear every minute.

    10. WWF: Blood

    Don't Buy Exotic Animals Ad

    Another disturbing ad, this one shows an attractive young woman walking through an empty airport terminal, wheeling her luggage behind her. From her suitcase comes a large trail of bright red blood.

    According to the ad, she bought exotic animal souvenirs, items in countries where the laws on animal treatment, poaching and hunting might be a bit ambiguous or even supportive of such items. Every year, a number of people buy these products while abroad.


    Many of these ads are emotional, and some incredibly upsetting. But they send a message in a way that seems to punch you in the gut. What are some of your favorite (or most moving) examples of public awareness ads? Let us know in the comments.


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