Grey Group Shanghai Alters Reality with ‘Vanishing Tree’ for WWF

By Kiran Aditham 

Rather than go for blunt messaging to discuss the environment for the World Wildlife Fund, Grey Group Shanghai (with the help of a group of local 10th grade high school students) opted for a mix of subtlety and visual trickery to blur the line between illusion and reality.

With a campaign dubbed “Save the Vanishing Tree,” which was unveiled on March 21, the agency utilized “ambient media” — in this case, its team painted a strip around the trunk of a tree to give the illusion of transparency, ultimately giving the impression to passersby that part of the trunk had vanished.

Here’s the team at work:


03-WWF- TheVanishingTree-TheMaking


Here’s a view of the work:

WWF- TheVanishingTree-CloseUp

…and here are audience reaction shots:

04-WWF- TheVanishingTree-Reaction

According to a statement from Grey:

“The idea uses ambient media in a really clever way to disrupt and draw people’s attention, give them a dose of reality to a serious environmental problem. This is because as the country continues to prosper, we live under the illusion that everything is just fine.”

Along with the painting portion, QR codes were placed nearby the tree to drive people to the WWF website, which sheds light on the deforestation currently plaguing nations around the world. In China specifically, 12-15 million hectares of forest are lost each year — which is the equivalent of decimating one Forbidden City every three minutes.

The ultimate objective of the WWF initiative, which also includes print and OOH components, is to emphasize China’s increasing participation in the green movement in a rather clever way.

Expect the campaign to expand to other nations.


Agency: Grey Shanghai

Client: WWF China

Chief Creative Officer: Canon Wu

Creative Director: Jonathan Lim

Art Director: Yuki Xu, Sasa Yu

Copywriter: Top Yu

Planner: Rachel Woolley

Public Relations: Benjamin Li

Illustrator: Shanghai High School, International Division Grade 10 –

Ann Tang, Saku, Sarie, Anya

Production: Meethepeople