Ambient advertising has reached new heights in the fight to protect endangered animals. Embattled game farmers are selling advertising rights on South Africa’s big five in a bid to raise money for conservation efforts.
Easter bunny under threat
While rhino poaching captures the headlines, some 10% of South Africa’s 299 mammal species are under threat. The Riverine Rabbit is one of two local species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (ICUN) critically endangered list.
A further 11 are endangered, 15 are vulnerable and 13 are near-threatened.
Conservation-minded farmers have traditionally funded their own preservation schemes from farm income but increased pressure on commercial agriculture to deliver higher yields has placed animals under even greater threat. Alternative revenue schemes are needed.
According to Karoo-based farmer Fanie Dwaasenmaan, who has a particular interest in protecting his own farm’s dwindling population of Riverene rabbits, “the animals, they need to work harder. They need to help themselves. I cannot stand and let them take my bunnies. I realised I had to make a plan”
With the aid of digital marketing company 2Stroke Interactive, Dwaasenmaan has made a plan. In an innovative scheme, he has started to sell advertising space on his animals.
“We began with sheep. But people weren’t interested in watching them. My marketing people tell me they didn’t have brand value. I mean who wants to be associated with a sheep? Even the bed companies weren’t interested.”
Never one to admit to failure, Dwaasenmaan contacted a game lodge in Limpopo and arranged for an elephant to be shipped to his Karoo farm.
“It was a lightbulb moment. I mean an elephant has so much advertising real estate. You can put ads on both its sides. And the trunk could go for big bucks. ”
Initially, the scheme met with mixed success. Many experiments were undertaken before Dwaasenmaan was able to perfect an ecologically sensitive dye made from plant extracts capable of withstanding daily dust baths and the fierce African sun.
“We then had trouble getting Kaas, my elephant, to stand still long enough for the advert to be sprayed onto him. But we persevered.”
2Stroke itself took the first advert. Director Charlie Stewart believes in Dwassenmaan’s vision. “We first came across the concept of animal advertising in France where they refer to it as ‘poisson d’avril’. It’s not for all businesses, but it certainly helps overcome the boredom barrier that impacts most adverts. If a few more entrepreneurs like Dwaasenmaan jump on this, it could turn the advertising industry on its head.”
Dwaasenmaan believes that elephant ads may be the future for animal conservation. “I mean who would forget an advert on an elephant. With the money we get, we can build better homes for our rabbits.”