The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Save The Whale By Stopping The Women …
January 16, 2008, 7:00 am
Filed under: Comment

Ishmael's Whale group 

So my cynic boys are doing some pro-bono work for Greenpeace, and they’ve come up with a really great idea to motivate consumer pressure/action – but before I go into that, first some background.

There’s a major problem with charitable organisations – and that is there’s simply too many of them.

Of course this is a byproduct of our Government’s preferring to invest in non-ethical wars rather than the health and prosperity of it’s people and countries – however what this has resulted in is greater demand for each dollar donated, leading to many charities experiencing major shortfalls in their annual income levels. 

To make matters worse – especially for those charities operating in more ‘niche categories’ – there is a ‘trendy cycle’ meaning certain organisations become disproportionately important to society at certain given times.  A few years ago it was Amnesty and now it’s anyone representing the environment – and what this does is skew donations in their favour because whilst the number of charities has exploded, the level of donations hasn’t. [well certainly not at the same levels]

I should point out here that I am not laying blame here – nor am I trying to compare one charitable organisations need over another – I am just attempting to highlight the challenge faced by the boys with Greenpeace .

OK … so back to the task in hand.

The key issue, as the boys saw it, was that whilst many people knew Whales were being fished out of the seas [mainly by the Japanese and often in inhumane ways] it was so out of the masses ‘frame of reference’ that they would give allocate their donations ‘budget’ to issues closer to home.

What the guys have done is turn a couple of issues on their head.

1 They’ve got the organisation to focus on pro-actively stopping Whaling rather than just raising funds.

2 They’ve decided to make people feel guilt and shame rather than pity and sorrow.

What this has resulted in is a campaign that is going to pressure women to pressure cosmetic companies to pressure Japanese companies to stop Whaling.

That sounds complicated but it is actually quite simple.

perfume bottle 

Women love perfume, we all know that – but what many women don’t know is that a key ingredient in its creation is something called Ambergris.

Ambergris is found in the stomachs of Sperm Whales and is created as a byproduct of their digestive process.

This ‘substance’ is often expelled by the Whales vomiting [it tends to float in chunks on the water] however that doesn’t stop them often being cruelly culled because there can be more of the material still left inside their stomachs – a material which has incredible financial value to the cosmetic industry.

Now whilst certain Governments have banned Ambergris’ use in manufacture – resulting in synthesized versions being developed by scientists – many companies still use it because they feel the alternative doesn’t offer them the same level of subtly and smoothness of aromas that they seek in their perfumes/aftershaves.

Bloody Hands 

OK, so Whales are often culled for more reasons than just to extract Ambergris [even though there is a Worldwide ban] … however the guys felt this information had the power to motivate people to actively support the cause rather than just mutter about it when they saw it on television [especially as it’s use is increasing thanks to the growth of mens fragrance brands like Cool Water, Drakkar Noir and Zino Davidoff] so they’ve created a campaign called “The Ugly Side Of Beauty” which informs people about the real price they’re paying just to ‘smell nice’.

The underlying idea of the campaign is that regardless where you live – if you buy/use perfumes or aftershaves – you have blood on your hands!

[One ad features a child in a liquidizer and asks: Would you still use French perfume if a child had to be murdered to make one bottle? Where does your guilt start and end?

I know this all sounds harsh [and opens up a wider debate as regards animal usage/cruelty] but society has an incredible capacity to ignore terrible deeds in the name of fashion/self image.  

However awareness doesn’t necessarily change anything which is why the ultimate focus of the campaign is [or will be once it’s up and running] to drive people to a petition that will declare you won’t buy any offending perfume/aftershave [which will be listed] until the manufacturer of said brands, signs a global agreement to never use Ambergris in their products again.

air ambulance workers 

Will it fundamentally change the Whaling [let alone the cosmetic] industry?

Only time will tell, however having just re-read the brilliant Economic Hitman I know commercial pressure is far more powerful in creating change than all the rattling tins in the World, so lets hope so because it’d be nice to feel proud of my industry again.

Oh and to anyone who says this is ‘commercial blackmail’ – I would happily nod in agreement!

[Hope that makes you proud Dad!] 


17 Comments

I know today is a tough day for you but if its any consolation, your old man would be very proud of who you are, what you believe and judging by this great bit of thinking, what you are creating.
This is pragmatic simplicity at its finest and shows how advertising can focus on solving issues, not just communicating them.
Congratulations to all involved and I hope your days OK.

Comment by Pete

We’re all very excited by this too Robert. Take care, we’re thinking of you today. Jemx

Comment by Jemma King

You mean we’ve pleased the most critical man in advertising? That’s almost as good as a payrise but not quite 🙂

Comment by Billy Whizz

I think it’s a powerful idea! Thank you for caring and sharing.

Comment by Mark

firstly, hugs to you today rob.

secondly – fucking brilliant work cynic on the whaling action.

get up in australia also proved that if you give people an option to act out of shame/guilt/anger, it has better results than by sorrow or pity.

[i love my perfume. and what’s even worse, my perfume is made by a japanese designer. time to take some action methinks.]

Comment by lauren

More agencies need to understand that modern communication requires them to go above and beyond just ads and start finding ways that fundamentally addresses the key issue of the client.

I understand that clients hold the key in allowing this to happen, but after years of being told an “ad will solve all”, you can’t blame us for being slightly mistrusting of your claims, especially when you use words like “through the line” which indicates you still will favour a more traditional advertising solution over something maybe more creatively pragmatic.

I love what Pete say’s about “pragmatic simplicity” because that’s exactly what you guys have done. It’s not about advertising, it’s about identifying an idea that can solve this terrible situation regardless of channel or discipline.

No wonder you guys get client briefs that take you into all sorts of areas because you’ve earnt the right to do it whereas multinationals still think putting all their departments into one bottom line represents media neutrality.

Clients don’t want media neutrality, we want idea neutrality.

Great work to you guys and hope you’re OK with today Robert. See you next week.

Comment by Lee Hill

This is brilliant work. Love it.

Comment by poor\

I’m proud of this. And I have nothing to do with this.

Comment by Marcus

my heartfelt sympathy goes out to you….you once told me that in time we remember more the good than the bad..take it easy, talk soon

Comment by niko

You clever little buggers. Beautiful work. I’ll be showing this around the network so everyone can understand what we need to aspire to.
Two great big thumbs up.

Comment by Chris

Nice idea, I hope it works as well as it should.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I work with Pete and he sent an email telling me to look at this post. Big respect for what you’ve done but I’m only writing here to prove I’ve checked it out. 🙂

Comment by Dan

Well done for focussing on the core. If you want people to do something you focus on increasing demand, but if you want something to stop, you focus on reducing demand.

Comment by John

Great thinking.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

Is it really a year since I read about this special day? This is a wonderful way to pay respect to clearly a great man. Well done Rob.

Comment by Charles Frith

this is such a simple powerful idea and gets at the real problem – action not awareness.
hope you’re ok today – my guess is this would have made your dad very proud.

Comment by gareth

Thanks for all your kind comments – given I’ve hardly met any of you, I am genuinely shocked [and touched] by your kindness.

And yes, this idea would make my Dad proud – because for once, he’d think advertising was being used for good and not evil. Then he’d see our next Virgin campaign and go back to putting his head in his hands going “Tut Tut Tut” 🙂

Comment by Rob




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