How to fight deforestation using only one tiny orangutan

Updated: Jan 18, 2020

We hear a lot about the impact we humans have on the environment and what it might mean for the Earth. Air, soil, water quality is all being affected and resulting in devastating impacts on human and animal alike. Someone we get desensitised about these issues because it’s not affecting us directly at least not right now. We tell ourselves that we’ll worry about it later or that things can’t last forever. So how as advertisers and marketers can we get the message through to consumers about how important these issues are? In this post, we will take the example of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest and its advert about palm oil. To find out more just keep reading.

Case in Point Brand: Centre for Science in the Public Interest Ad descriptive: Palm Oil

Image credit: Centre for Science in the Public Interest, Impact of Palm Oil Production,


Griffiths, P. 2015, Marketing by Controlling Social Discourse: The Fairtrade Case, Economic Affairs, vol.35, iss. 2) pp.256-271, viewed 26 July 2017, doi: 10.1111/ecaf.12123

Analytical critique: Snapshot Criteria Analysis in Brief Objective Raise awareness; Provide explicit information; Emphasise the work being undertaken by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest; Stress the importance and seriousness of the issue; Cognitive and effective impact Intended Audience Those concerned by environmental issues; Those concerned by health issues; Those concerned by labelling laws; Those concerned by the lack of veracity of the information being presented to them Effectiveness Highly; More and products being developed, produced and sold that respect these issues Room for Improvement Providing additional statistics regarding land usage, population displacement, and animal numbers

Analytical critique: In full The advert The brand uses scientific data in order to raise awareness of consumer health and environmental issues within the wider community and government bodies and agencies. One of the key aims of the brand is to advocate for accurate and comprehensive labels on food products. This is as much for the ingredients included, the quantity of these and all the relevant nutritional information. This advertisement attempts to raise awareness of one specific ingredient, palm oil. Palm oil is linked to heart disease, deforestation, and habitat loss. The advertisement features a baby orangutan (Sumatran or Bornean?) sitting amongst the skulls and bones of others of its kind. Although, the advertisement features one species of animal it intends to make a cognitive and affective impact by impelling consumers to consult the brand website which reveals that Sumatran tigers, Asian elephants, and Sumatran rhinoceros are also victim do the consumers desire for a cookie (i.e. experiential processing). The consumers desire for a cookie result in soil erosion, pollution, chemical contamination and the displacement of indigenous people in Malaysia and Indonesia ( The photo helps the consumer to visualise the impact of their decision to remain ignorant, not check labels and not reflect upon their choices. Consumers will think twice and give more weight to their individual choices. It’s not “just a cookie”.

The article Consumer decision making in the not-for-profit sector may be considered significantly different as compared to other sectors of activity. It is the story of the brand, what they stand for and the opinions of those who don’t benefit financially (Griffiths, 2015, p. 256) from the consumers decision making process. It is the story the brand tells, repeats and creates that is the key (Griffiths, 2015, p. 256). Key also are the stories that the brand doesn’t give an outlet to that will influence the consumer (Griffiths, 2015, p. 256). In a sector where there is no tangible product to sell but rather an idea, concept or story proof is required to validate the marketing message. First, the credibility of the message sender (or originator) must be substantiated (Griffiths, 2015, p. 258). Being able to establish the means that the consumer can analyse, categorize and evaluate unemotionally what they are being told. Secondly, there must be a call for action. The brand wants the customer to understand that there is an issue that needs their attention, that it is important to take action and that they as an individual can make a difference regarding this issue. It is of prime importance that the brand communicates its expertise in the issue at hand, that the brand knows the steps required to alleviate the problem and that its values are aligned with those of the consumer. Emotion guided by evidence and logic is what will push the consumer to act on the message communicated by the brand.

We have seen through the analysis of this advert and this journal article that an advert isn’t just an advert and a cookie isn’t just a cookie. The hope that this type of advert and research will wake us up from our torpor. Through presenting scientific information, we are made aware of the issue and through emotive imagery, we see a visual representation of the actual impact of our action and inaction. Narrowing the distance between actions and consequences allows consumers to better understand the connection between the two. Pleading ignorance is no longer possible. This is what effective advertising and marketing efforts do.

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