Visual Persuasion and Communicator Credibility in WWF Environmental Advertising Campaigns

Ellie Flanagan
James Madison University
School of Communication Studies

With all of the advertisements constantly interrupting our daily routine of enjoying our choice of media outlets, it is difficult to identify how exactly these advertisements attempt to persuade us. People are lead to question what advertisements are factual, what ads provide false information, and who is a trustworthy source. These persuasive advertisements often cause people to question what is important, what values they should hold, and what decisions will ensure a better future. Studying persuasion is important when analyzing advertisements because it is ever changing and subtle, subliminal messages are often included. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is a perfect example of an organization using unique and effective advertising strategies to get their message across, a message that is extremely important but often ignored. WWF’s vision is to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature, and in doing so places great emphasis on advertising techniques that generate fear and sympathy and create a sense of identity for the readers of their ad campaigns. WWF is particularly effective not only due to their non-traditional tactics, but also because of their status as a credible source of information. The WWF takes advantage of their communicator credibility and applies a values-based approach including series of visual persuasion techniques including photography and art to create the aesthetically pleasing, eye-catching advertisements that frequent all sources of mass media outlets.  
The WWF is the world’s leading conservation organization whose mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of...