Great Ad 6: Forest-Woods-Tree-Death

Great Ad 6: Forest-Woods-Tree-Death

This is done by a Chinese ad agency for the China market. You may not understand the beauty of it if you cannot read or understand Chinese. But once you do, you will appreciate the simplicity, clarity and impact to the image.


Forest / Woods / Tree / Death (or Sheng/Lin/Mu/Shi)
Ad Agency: Shunya, Beijing, China ~ Creative Director: DOZE ~
Creative: Miao Hao

Why is it good?

Attract Attention: There are 3 words and 1 symbol. All the 3 words have the “wood” component (as featured in word #3). Reading from left to right literally, we get Forest –> Woods –> Tree –> Death. As you can see, the first word has THREE “wood” characters. The 2nd word has only TWO “wood” characters, and the third word is “wood” itself, the the last and final character has even the last visages of “wood” stripped away! That is no longer a Chinese word, just a symbol, albeit a familiar one that speaks of death.

Easy to Understand: When we cut down trees relentlessly, thinking only of immediate gratification without sparing a thought to how a disappearing forest or a shrinking Amazon will negatively impact the ecology and environment for our future generations; we are bringing an early demise to planet Earth.

Strong message: This is a deforestation awareness campaign by WWF – a global environmental conservation organization. A strong message that “Our one and only planet has so many fantastic places and species that we’re almost spoilt for choice. But that choice is getting smaller, with unique species and environments being lost forever.” So start re-thinking your preferences – to use disposable wooden chopstick even when you are at home or office? You don’t want to be responsible for killing off a “sheng” (forest) or the “lin” (woods) and be the murderer-accomplice that planted the crucifix instead.

Check out related posts within the Great Ad series :

Great Ad 1: Without Heinz
Great Ad 2: Sony Micro Vault
Great Ad 3: Happy Father’s Day

Great Ad 4: Amnesty International

Great Ad 5: Ready to Quit
Great Ad 6: Forest-Woods-Tree-Death

Great Ad 7: Buenos Aires Zoo

Great Ad 8: Drink Milk
Great Ad 9: Brain, Head, Thinker
Great Ad 10: The Greatest Wonder of the Sea is that It’s Still Alive.

[tags]forest-to-death ad, deforestation awareness ad, great ads, ads with few words, ads with strong imagery, ads with picture only[/tags]

15 Replies to “Great Ad 6: Forest-Woods-Tree-Death”

  1. Although I don’t understand Chinese, as you describe it I think that this ad would be powerful imagery for the intended audience.

  2. Yes the Chinese characters are very meaningful. I beleive the original composer must have put a lot of thought in their construction over the thousands of years history. It is sad that modern chinese is trying to simplify them causing them to loose their meaning. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post!

    I like the Ads very much. Creative !

    We experience a large degree of natural change in our planets. But it is still not too late to do our parts to save our planets.

  4. Hi Laura
    Yes, I think it serves the intended purpose

    === ===
    Hey Bokjae
    Chinese language is indeed beautiful. I’m effectively bilingual and I sometimes read a book in it’s original language and then read the translated version to see if the essence are kept. Some translators can captured that effortlessly. But this ad, I doubt it can be replicated in the English language.

    === ===
    Hi Keeyit
    Glad you like it too. And yes, it is indeed not too late. Don’t like the idea that the future generation sees no more of the graceful polar bears…

  5. Great message, and an ad that will be remembered. I love the cross at the end.

    Have you heard of Might be something you would be interested in participating in. Our whole M-Network blogging network is participating.

    Now off to read some more of your articles!

  6. Interesting advertisement with a clever idea behind it. I wonder though how effective it is in the cultural context of China? Not many Chinese are Christians, and putting in a cross as a symbolism of death may be offensive in two ways.

    First, its significance may not resonate with largely Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist Chinese. While most people would have heard or read about the crucifix, it is more of a Roman form of punishment in the old days.

    Second, and I speak about this as a Christian too, the cross is a symbolism of life rather than death. The empty cross shows that Christ has risen from His death on the crucifix, which is why it is empty.

    Cultural sensitivity, especially in matters relating to religion, is a very important component of successful advertising. While this ad scores in terms of branding and awareness, it may not necessarily do as well in terms of emotional connection and conviction.

    Well, that’s my view anyway. Keep up the splendid work meanwhile on these ads!

  7. Hi Larry
    The cross at the end does blend well with the Chinese text, which can very graphical.

    === ===
    Hi Walter
    Religious issues aside, it also depends on how strong a person thinks and feels about conservation. I support the conservation and green movement and would contribute as best as I can towards a healthier earth. So when I saw this ad, it hit me straight and hard. I was emotionally moved.

  8. everyone is praising about the ads, and none of you actually says you gonna start recycling.

    a lot of creativity, zero efficiency (so far).

  9. If this a recent work, then it could be a recycled idea because according to our creative director, Cynthia, she has seen it more than 10 years ago on a poster.

    P/S: Paul, great comment. Good ads should not shadow the intended message or brand. Sometime, creative aims to showcase how level of creativity, yet killing the original intention of ads: Selling more to more people.

  10. Hello there,
    i do agree this is a very good adv.
    i do not understand why you read the 2nd character as wood and 3rd character as tree and last charcter as death.
    Being a chinese and and being reading chinese for 40 years, my undertanding is that the 2nd character is representing tree and the 3rd representing wood and the last in mandrin is 10,
    would appreciate if you can help to clearify for me to understand from your point of view.
    over all this is a very good adv.

    Thank you

  11. Hi Paul
    Well, I certainly hope this ad will inspire people to be more environmentally friendly.

    === ===
    Hi Ken
    Thanks for the feedback. I’ll have to check when this is made.

  12. Hi Vincent
    From left to right, the 1st word “sheng” can be interpreted as “jungle” or “forest” in English. According to, the difference between “jungle” and “forest” is:
    – “jungle”: a wild land overgrown with dense vegetation, often nearly impenetrable, esp. tropical vegetation or a tropical rain forest.
    – “forest”: a large tract of land covered with trees and underbrush; woodland.
    So, “jungle” is much bigger than “forest”.

    I interpreted the 2nd character “lin” as “woods”. “Lin” in Chinese is trees, not just a few trees but quite a large number of them. So in English, clusters of trees is “woods”. Again, quoting
    – “woods”: a large and thick collection of growing trees.
    In Chinese, we use “da sheng lin” as “jungle”, “sheng lin” or “shu lin” as “forest”, so I interpreted the singular term of “lin” as “woods”
    The 3rd character by itself is “wood” in Chinese. There is no argument on that. However, to read in the context of this advertisement, the word “wood” represents “tree”. My intention of this post is interpret the meaning of this ad. Therefore I used the word “tree” as that’s the underlying meaning.
    The last character is actually the Chinese character of “mu” (wood) without the left and right “bie”(stroke). It became a cross It is not a Chinese font of “shi” (ten). The vertical line of “shi” should be at the centre of the horizontal line and not so high up like what’s was shown in the ad. Therefore it should not be read as “shi” (ten). The cross is a symbolic as we know Jesus died up there. However, he resurrects 3 days later. The underlying message is all is not lost if we now made the effort to save the trees and prevent further unnecessary deforestation.

  13. I agree with Paul actually, having just come across this, I agree with you all, in that it has a very powerful message, however it hasn’t actually got me to change my ways. I wonder what it could have done to get us to actually actively change our ways…

  14. Shi is ten. The last and final character has even the last visages of “wood” stripped away! That is no longer a Chinese word, just a symbol, albeit a familiar one that speaks of death. So I take it that we do not read it literally as TEN but view it graphically as a cross.

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