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WildAid / A tale for tusks

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world

Conservation charity recreates ancient story to change China’s attitudes to ivory

Around 33,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks in the global ivory trade. If poaching continues at this rate, the species could be extinct within one or two decades.

China is the world’s largest market for ivory, where many people view it as a status symbol, good luck charm or an impressive gift. To persuade the Chinese (and the rest of the world, too) that ivory is socially unacceptable, conservation charity WildAid published a children’s book telling the story of the elephant’s plight.

The Great Race, created with Grey London, is a reimaging of the ancient Chinese tale of the Zodiac. In the traditional story, which is often told by elders to their families at New Year, 12 animals race to become the different Zodiac signs. WildAid’s re-telling brings the elephant into the story, explaining how it lost out on the race to selflessly save the cat from drowning. The story concludes by explaining how the elephant now needs our help more than ever.

Launching on World Book Day and World Wildlife Day, the story is available in hardback and as a free eBook or as an animation narrated by Sir Trevor McDonald. To reach the Chinese target audience, the film was promoted on Weibo, local TV channels, radio, shopping malls, subway stations and was played on 25,000 taxi screens.

The Great Race is just one part of WildAid’s Year of the Elephant campaign. Having kicked-off at Chinese New Year on 8 February, the global movement seeks to make 2016 the first year that more elephants are born than killed.

WildAid is asking people worldwide to #JoinTheHerd and support the cause on social media, by changing their profile picture and wishing their followers a ‘Happy Year of the Elephant’. Celebrity ambassadors are also spreading the word, including Sir Trevor McDonald, Lupita Nyong’o, Alikiba, Yoko Ono and Leonardo DiCaprio. A select group of artists from all over the world have also created a series of poster ads.


Results / The Great Race animation has been viewed 37 milliontimes in China on the campaign’s Weibo topic page.

Contagious Insight / 

Cultural sensitivity / Rather than condemning ancient traditions, WildAid has twisted the tale to create a new story. In this way, the charity has shown respect for Chinese culture while also trying to change perceptions around ivory traditions. This approach is more culturally sensitive and perhaps more effective at creating change. Shouting at people may have elicited a defensive response, whereas the gently delivered, alternative perspective that the story provides is less likely to antagonise people. Using empathy and understanding could be a more successful approach at persuading people to think about an issue from a different point of view.

Strength in numbers / The world’s largest ivory markets include the US, Hong Kong and China. In the last six months, both the US and China agreed to phase out ivory sales. Meanwhile Hong Kong has vowed to ban the ivory market. WildAid wants to push for specific details and a detailed timeline for the phasing out of the trade. With momentum building, the charity has seized the opportunity to recruit as many people as possible to lay on the pressure.

WildAid also taps into Mark Earls' (aptly named) Herd Theory. ‘What changes everything is when you get the sense of momentum, the sense that this is what everyone is doing now,’ explains Earls in a 2010 keynote speech. He claims human behaviour is motivated by what the crowd is doing and that ‘social influencers are the influenced.’ By positioning its cause as a ‘herd’ to ‘join’, WildAid is tapping into people’s desire to follow the crowd and be part of something bigger than themselves.





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