Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Get ’em While They’re Young

The World Wildlife Fund thinks its corporate logo should be plastered on children’s flesh.

For 30 years I’ve held strong views about involving, using, or targeting children in political campaigns. I think it’s unconscionable.

Whether the issue is nuclear disarmament, labour practices in developing countries, or the environment, these matters are complicated. Nuances and tradeoffs are not things children fully understand. A 10-year-old lacks a bedrock of experience, has had no opportunity to develop an independent opinion, and has made none of the painful mistakes that bring wisdom.

Many jurisdictions frown on advertising that targets children. Presumably that’s because we recognize that children have fewer intellectual and psychological defenses. Perhaps it’s also because we regard childhood as a fleeting time of innocence and wonder.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), however, thinks children are walking billboards. It thinks its corporate logo should be plastered on their flesh.

According to a press release issued yesterday “plasters” – we colloquially call them Band-Aids here in North America – “don’t have to be boring.” Add some animal prints and a WWF logo and you’ve got “a completely new concept” with “fantastic visual appeal.”

The WWF believes we’re so fond of its corporate logo that we’ll have no problem covering the skinned knees and bleeding fingers of our precious offspring with it.

Nor is the overtly political nature of this endeavour being hidden. The following quote, from WWF spokesperson Howard Wright, makes this clear in the press release:

“By simply choosing a WWF Safari plaster, you will be supporting WWF in building a future where humans live in harmony with nature and helping WWF work in over 90 countries around the world.” [bold added]

Wright’s remarks are followed by this line, in the body of the press release itself:

Irrespective of age, everyone can now support WWF, stand out and impress friends with wonderful images of endangered safari animals. [bold added]

The argument is that it’s appropriate for people to support the WWF by using this product – irrespective of their age. Which is another way of saying that no one at the WWF sees anything wrong with making use of four-year-olds to advance their cause.

By now we’re all familiar with the idea that, when we buy certain products, a sum of money is directed to one charity or another. But this is different. The WWF isn’t merely getting money. It isn’t merely gaining exposure by slapping its logo on the packaging.

This is an instance in which the logo is an integral part of each and every adhesive strip being sold. There is no way to use this product – which, by the way, is manufactured in the UK by Appia Healthcare – without making a pro-WWF political statement.

What’s next? Diapers emblazoned with the WWF logo? How about infant pacifiers? Oh, wait, the WWF is skating perilously close to both of those already (see here, here, here, here, and here).

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According to the caption that accompanies the photo linked to yesterday’s press release, buying these plasters is

a fun and caring way to deal with little cuts and grazes…

There are many kinds of people in this world. But when I think about the sort of person who’s prepared to turn their toddler into a walking political advertisement caring isn’t the first word that comes to mind.


The WWF press release is backed up here. The photo backup is here.

Check out Climate Lessons – an entire blog about the sorts of green messages being directed at children – and my blog post about UNESCO’s view that children should be taught about sustainable development in nursery school.



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