Breaking The Brand is now only weeks away from the launch of RhiNo Campaign 4. July 2016 saw the final publication from RhiNo Campaign 3 – What does a wildlife criminal look like?
Launched on the 4th January 2016, this was the first Breaking The Brand campaign aimed at triggering ‘status anxiety’ in the primary users. Since starting our interviews, with the primary users of rhino horn in 2013, status anxiety – if using rhino horn would diminish user’s status in the eyes of their peers – was one of only two reasons given that would cause this group to stop using rhino horn quickly enough to save the rhino from extinction in the wild.
The adverts asked: What does a wildlife criminal look like? and highlighted to people that if they had bought rhino horn recently it will have come from an illegal killed rhino.
Triggering status anxiety is not the same as triggering the fear of law enforcement. The approach taken in the ads is to diminish the businessman’s reputation in the eyes of his peers and the networks people he aspires to be a part of. Like all businessmen around the world, our target group is worried about the loss of their brand and reputation, and any resulting loss of career and business opportunities.
The advert also pointed to the fact that while in the past the focus had been on the poachers and traffickers of rhino horn, now more and more people are paying attention to the buyers. Given that the rhinos’ destruction is driven by the target groups desire to purchase rhino horn, the buyers must see themselves for what they are, wildlife criminals. The advert finishes with: If you buy rhino horn, you are a wildlife criminal.
Publications and Costs
From launch, on 4th January 2016, to the last publication in July 2016, the campaign published 21, full-page advertisements and 2 editorials in a number of key business and lifestyle publications. The campaign also covered the critical Vietnamese Luna New Year holiday, a time when rhino horn use spikes. The cost of the campaign was $45,000 (Australian dollars). A full account of the campaign will be covered in BTB upcoming 12-month report.
International Trade Agreements
In this campaign, for the first time, we also decided to target English language magazines, namely Vietnam Investment Review (VIR), a weekly publication targeting 40,000 business leaders, economists and senior government officials in Viet Nam.
The reason for choosing this appraoch is that around the world several free trade agreements are currently in negotiation which could benefit the Vietnamese economy. For instance, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) involving 12 nations including the USA and Viet Nam. Of the 12, it has been assessed that Viet Nam has most to gain from the TPP, so the public image of its business community now matters as they gain exposure to Western elites and consumers. We will continue to use VIR in our next campaign. For more information on trade agreements and Viet Nam http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-08/more-shoes-and-shrimp-less-china-reliance-for-vietnam-in-tpp
Breaking the Brand’s Message Too Sensitive for Heritage Magazine
One key difference between this campaign and our first two campaigns is that Breaking The Brand wasn’t able to publish the campaign in Heritage Magazine, which we had done previously with campaigns 1 and 2, starting in 2014.
The third campaign was due to launch in October 2015, but after 3 months of negotiation with the Central Committee of Propaganda and Education and Heritage Magazine, the Breaking The Brand campaign was deemed too sensitive for Heritage Magazine, the in-flight magazine of Vietnam Airlines. Over 80 emails went back and forward between Australia and Viet Nam in relation to this one advert. Breaking The Brand was accommodating in accepting some of the requested changes to wording. On 4th December I received an email asking me to change the adverts yet again, the image this time. I refused to make the change, reminding Heritage Magazine that I had used this exact same image in the 2 previous campaigns, which they had published with no problem. Similarly, I pointed out that:
- The text of the advert and the headline were consistent with Vietnamese domestic law. The actors in the image are clearly shown consuming rhino horn, which is illegal under Vietnamese legalisation enacted in line with the CITES requirements for listed species.
- The adverts are also consistent with the stance taken recently by the Vietnamese government and that they are promoting worldwide, I attached just one article to demonstrate this: http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/vietnam-to-bust-rhino-horm-myth-1.1895421#.Vjp8-bcrJD8 So the Vietnamese government has recently made a very public show of its commitment under CITES to help stamp out the illegal rhino horn trade.
- The adverts BTB creates may make people a little uncomfortable, but at this time we need everyone and every organisation who ‘genuinely’ want to help stop this trade to become a little bit more courageous in supporting initiatives that have a good chance of stopping the demand.
- Given there has been a number of seizures of rhino horn at the airports, it is known to be a supply channel and so it would seem a legitimate idea to promote this type of advert in Vietnam Airlines Magazine.
In the end the adverts were deemed to be too sensitive and so, for campaign 3, BTB was not able to use Heritage Magazine. Before reading further, I think it is important to remind everyone that Heritage is the in-flight magazine of Vietnam Airlines, which is a state owned enterprise.
So given that the wordage on our ‘What Does A Wildlife Criminal Look Like?’ was correct and the government says it is committed to solving the problem, why was the advert deemed too sensitive to print? Now I know that publishing this fact may have repercussions for BTB in being able to publish in Viet Nam in the future, but we will deal with this if it arises.
Given that the Vietnamese government has offered to host the 3rd International Wildlife Trade Conference (IWTC) in Hanoi this November, BTB has to ask, is the government genuinely interested in solving the wildlife consuming behaviour of the country’s elite? By deeming the BTB campaign too sensitive to be published and looking for softer options for the government to support, we have to ask how much ‘greenwashing’ will the global public tolerate from governments who need to take decisive action and not just create PR opportunities. For instance, how much can caring consumers make their feelings known? What products in your country come from Viet Nam? I am sure that many Australians will be interested to know that a great deal of timber furniture in Bunnings Warehouse, one of the nation’s best loved chains, comes from Viet Nam.
Personal Letters to Vietnamese Business Leaders
In addition to our adverts and with the support of volunteers in Viet Nam, who spent several months monitoring the businesses press to build an up-to-date database of the business people who currently have the greatest status and influence in the country, Breaking The Brand sent personal letters to business leaders on the database. Together with the letter we forwarded adverts from our first three campaigns.
We felt the timing was right for this initiative given the emergence of the Panama Papers and Unaoil, together with the TPP. Again, it is another way to say the world is watching. To see this pack in more detail: http://breakingthebrand.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Letter-to-Vietnamese-Businessmen.pdf
Next Steps – Campaign 4
One of the new elements in campaign 4 is what we have been able to learn from 40 years of anti-smoking campaigns in relation to the frequency of audience exposure to ads that is required to achieve behaviour change. This research has found that audiences are more likely to absorb the messages if they are exposed to at least 12 ads per quarter. The adverts need to be relevant to the target group and elicit sufficient emotion in this group to have a chance of triggering a behaviour change. Behaviour change is more likely if exposure increases to 30 ads per quarter.
We have been very fortunate to have sufficient donations for campaign 4 to be able achieve an exposure rate of up to 30 ads per quarter for the first time in our campaigning.
We are also delighted that we have already been approached with some funds to helps support an evaluation and some donors have already committed to support BTB 2017 strategy.
Breaking The Brand will also continue its work on furthering the understanding of what a demand reduction/behaviour chance campaign is and isn’t: http://breakingthebrand.org/how-to-create-a-demand-reduction-campaign/ and http://breakingthebrand.org/how-much-is-spent-on-rhino-horn-demand-reduction-campaigns/ together with highlighting the dangerous and simplistic arguments being put forward to try and justify a trade in rhino horn: http://breakingthebrand.org/smart-trade-no-foolish-assumptions-yes/
A more detailed review of campaign 3 will be covered in Breaking The Brand’s upcoming annual report.
These are the views of the author: Dr. Lynn Johnson, Founder, Breaking the Brand