ASA saves polar bear ad from extinction

LONDON - An emotive TV ad for the World Wildlife Fund, featuring "threatened" polar bears in their shrinking Arctic habitat, has been cleared by the advertising watchdog, despite claims it was "misleading" and "exaggerated the plight" of the animals.

The Advertising Standards Authority today (5 May) refused to uphold 10 complaints from viewers who found claims polar bears were endangered misleading, because they understood that their numbers had in fact increased.

Three of the viewers further challenged the claim that the Arctic ice was shrinking and five believed it presented opinions on climate change as fact.

Six people also believed the ad exaggerated the plight of polar bears and therefore was fundraising under false pretences when it aired in January.

In the ad, created by Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw, the voice-over stated: "Are you ready to say goodbye to the polar bear? Polar bears depend on the Arctic ice. They hunt there and raise their young there. But the ice is shrinking... Adopt a polar bear today, because we don't want to say goodbye to them forever."

The WWF stressed that protecting the world's species and their habitats lay at the heart of their mission and provided a robust defence against the claims.

The ASA said it understood that, since 2008, polar bears had been listed as a threatened species, with melting Arctic sea ice cited as their primary threat.

The regulator added that because polar bears were officially classified as vulnerable and threatened, and because it understood that the overall trend for polar bear numbers was in decline, the ad did not give a misleading impression.

Similar independent evidence was used to dismiss other claims it was misleading, and the ASA also concluded that viewers were unlikely to understand the ad to mean that polar bears were definitely on the verge of extinction now.

The actions by the advertising body effectively saves the Polar Bear ad and means the WWF is free to run the campaign again in its current form.