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Desperation

Posted on March 6, 2013 and read 1,678 times

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NeilDawson DesperationNeil Dawson
ECD
BETC London

 

Since the beginning of 2013, two rhinos have been killed in Southern Africa every single day. Poaching of rhinos for their horns has been on the rise, with over 600 killed last year alone. Poachers fly low over game reserves and dart them with tranquilizer guns. They are quieter that way. After having its horn hacked off the rhino dies slowly from loss of blood. The situation is desperate.

We in advertising can do much. And we do. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), for example, seems to have more agencies on its books than any other organization in the world. Sit on any international awards jury and you will see many well-crafted ads for WWF made by a multitude of agencies, involving clever word play, beautiful illustrations or shocking metaphors. But do they do any good? Do they do anything at all? Not much is my guess. For a number of reasons.

For a start, simply telling an horrific truth is not enough. Most charities have an appalling truth that needs highlighting. In time people get punch-drunk by these messages; it’s too easy for us to turn the page or click off. Worse still, the level of horrific image needed nowadays is so extreme that people actively steer away from them. I’ve seen several friends on Facebook asking for people not to post images from animal charities as they are too disturbing.

Instead? Inspire people to do something very easy, to stop whatever injustice is being perpetrated. Better still, make it interactive or fun – like Toilet Twinning.  This is what makes the British Heart Foundation’s Vinnie Jones work so refreshingly different. And it’s saving lives.

The biggest issue for me is that charity work is mainly the initiative of the creative department in ad agencies. The broader strategic questions are usually overlooked whilst the creatives, with all good intentions, get into the nuts and bolts of what will make an arresting visual or headline punch above its weight.

I have lost count of the number of clever ads I’ve seen that have highlighted the plight of rhinos in the wild. That’s easy. What isn’t easy is affecting the demand for rhino horn. Changing the understanding and behavior of the millions of people who believe that powdered rhino horn in their diet will revive their flagging manhood.

The real tragedy, of course, is that drugs now exist that solve this type of issue. So here’s a thought. Rather than another shocking image of a rhino without its horn, why don’t we do a campaign that’s a tie-in with Pfizer in Asia? Explaining that no matted hair from the nose of any animal will give you the rigidity you crave – but a small blue pill will. To that end, perhaps Pfizer could change the colour and shape of their pill to resemble a mini horn.

Have I just cracked it? Right here in Charlotte Street, in the heart of London over a latte? Don’t worry, you were in the room when it happened, you’ll get a credit.

We can do so much to stop this desperate situation reaching a horrifying end. But we need to think about the problem as a whole and apply big creative thinking. I’m inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. He was a great leader, in part because of his creative thinking. Like marching to the sea to collect salt. (The British levied a tax on salt. The simple act of collecting his own from the sea resonated deeply with the poorest members of society who were affected most by the salt tax. It triggered the wider Civil Disobedience Movement that eventually led to Independence.)

Rather than challenging the British Empire head on, he thought laterally and then knew exactly the right buttons to press to defy and defeat the most powerful Empire in the world.

With all of the tools and brains at our disposal, saving rhinos should be relatively straightforward. Shouldn’t it?






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