A number of folks picked up on our kick off to the “Save The ‘Bou” campaign this morning. I’d like to thank everyone who helped us get our message off the ground. And I’d also like to offer some insight to our approach.

Our objective with the initial stage of this campaign was to force people to examine their own reactions, to think what was important to them and what kinds of situations would move them to take action. We developed a provocative teaser campaign based on the very real possibility that the Woodland Caribou may become extinct.

Our teaser message about the campaign ran for a few hours on Twitter this morning. When anyone expressed interest, we provided them with all the details of the Save the ‘Bou campaign.

The campaign is now completely live. We’d like to invite you to visit SavetheBou.ca and add your voice to the petition to ask the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, to enact the legislation already passed to protect the Woodland Caribou in Ontario’s Boreal Forest.

The campaign engaged a lot of you, both initially and after we explained our desire to provoke and get people talking. That was our objective, and we’d like to continue to discussion.

What do you think is the most effective way to cut through the clutter and get people talking early on in the process? Did you have issues with our approach? Did it work for you? What would you have done differently, and do you think you would have had the same result?

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14 Comments

  1. Hi there,

    I’ve already written and conversed with Maggie Fox over Twitter about the teaser portion of this campaign.

    At the risk of repeating myself, I think this was a really disingenous approach and that the engagement you boast about was done on a foundation of deception – a dangerous gamble.

    Social media adoption, by non-profits especially, is still in very early days. This sort of bait and switch approach, as well meaning as it was, strikes a bad chord with a lot of people and may lead to more orgs being wary of adopting social tools as part of their overall strategies.

    If your objective was to get people talking, maybe the campaign succeeded. But the measure of success will be how many of the people that signed on to protect the Canadian quarter carry on and sign the actual petition.

    I also wonder how the petition will be received if any political opponents decide to bring to light the fact that people may have believed they were trying to protect the quarter.

  2. tom purves

    I don’t get it, are you trying to save animals or promote a social media campaign for the sake of a social media campaign?

  3. I dunno, I think you guys made it a little confusing. Know a bunch of folks that thought this was about The Mint making a change to the quarter rather than an endangered species pitch.

    And besides, when’s the last time the ‘Bou was on a quarter? With the push to the olympics and all the “specialty” coins, the ‘Bou is almost already gone of the quarter.

    If anything, this made people think too much and the connection got lost in translation.

  4. tom purves

    I don’t get it, are you trying to save animals or promote a social media campaign for the sake of a social media campaign?

    In either case, authenticity is the ingredient you are missing.

  5. @John, thanks for coming by!

    Again, I’ll reiterate that our objective here was to get people thinking about what would prompt them to act and to make the point that the caribou are in very real danger of disappearing, and not just from the quarter. I’ll ask you the question (though you’re probably the wrong person to ask, given your background in working on the Boreal!) would you have noticed this campaign if not for the approach? Would we even be having this discussion? Would you have even cared?

    (As far as the petition goes, this was a planned campaign. It was introduced after the teaser phase was completed.)

    @James that was the point – to get people’s attention by talking about the Mint removing the caribou from the quarter, and then point out that something much worse is actually possible – the animals themselves may become extinct if not protected.

    @Tom we’re all about the animals – and using social media to make you aware of their plight.

  6. It’s Joe, not John.

    And yea, I agree that I’m more tuned into this because of my background working for an org dedicated to boreal protection.

    But I still think that simply getting people to talk isn’t a good enough objective. It’s too early to tell if the tactic will work, obviously, but the buzz I’ve seen so far (from an admittedly skewed group, it’s mostly social media / PR practitioners) is critical of the campaign. It risks overshadowing the underlying cause.

    Time will tell, of course. And I hope you’ll post another entry on the blog when the overall campaign winds up. I will happily stand to be corrected if it works!

  7. admin

    @Joe – my bad! And yes, we will absolutely fill everyone in on the results. Of course our ultimate measure of success will be whether or not the legislation to protect the Boreal will be enacted.

    Speaking of which, have you taken the time to fill out the petition yet?

    http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/281/t/9735/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1427

  8. I’m here, I’m writing a comment, you’ve gotten my attention, it’s a win for the marketing campaign, yes?

    Except I’m not here talking about how important it is to save the caribou in the wilderness, nor even how important it is to save the caribou from staying on the quarter; instead, I’m talking about how you went about raising awareness on an important issue by deceiving people. As well, you relied on the ease of spreading a “good cause” message via Twitter/Facebook since many people will retweet such a message without too much investigation. Just witness any of the many such memes that perpetuate on Twitter and have no factual basis.

    Do you really think that people who have been duped into retweeting a deceptive message or signing up for petition with a manufactured issue are going to feel positively towards the actual campaign you’re trying to promote? It’s very easy to get people to join Facebook groups, sign online petitions, retweet links to supposed outrages; however, it’s very hard to get people to actually commit time and energy into supporting an issue beyond such superficial levels. Expecting that you can reach those people with your true message after you’ve lied to them — told them one thing and then revealed your true intention — well, good luck with that.

    What’s next? A telemarketing campaign where you tell the person on the line that their mother has died, then reveal that they’re not dead but that X million of women die each year from breast cancer and oh, by the way, would you like to make a donation?

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to send flowers to Jeff Goldblum’s funeral. It seems he fell off a cliff in New Zealand while filming a movie.

    Ha! Just kidding. But you were worried that he’d died, weren’t you? Well worry no more…you can catch him in a new season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent this fall on NBC!

  9. @juan thanks for stopping by. Of course we are all entitled to our POVs, and thanks for sharing yours here!

    Naturally, we feel a little differently. Within hours of being tweeted, the tactics we used to cut through the noise and get this issue into peoples’ consciousness saw CBC News pick up the story. As one of the environmental groups promoting this campaign pointed out, they’ve been trying to get coverage for the plight of the caribou for ten years with little success. In this case, it happened in just hours.

    Of course, the proof is in the pudding and we’re just getting started. Ultimately, this program will be judged by whether or not the legislation is enacted.

    Speaking of which, have you had a chance to sign the petition?

  10. I wonder, does the campaign adhere to the “Canadian Code of Advertising Standards”? Would/should that apply to the social media networks used to spread the message? Does it apply to astroturfing? Interesting questions. I’d be curious to know what the discussion was that went on beforehand and if any of those ethical/legal issues were considered. You knew that you would stir up a hornet’s nest using this kind of technique (that was the whole point). Given that you went ahead and did it anyway I’m sure that any qualms your team had about it were patched over beforehand. I have to say that I am dismayed at the attitude I sense that the only measure of success is getting results. Sorry to say, but I don’t feel in all fairness that I can sign a petition that was promoted in a way that I feel was an abuse of peoples’ trust (and of the social networking sites used to violate that trust). I realize that’s not fair to the cause and I can assure that it’s a cause that I would otherwise support.

  11. @juan – again, thanks for your comments, and of course we hope you’ll reconsider supporting such an important cause!

  12. Robert Johnston

    Good on SMG for doing pro bono work to save an endangered species. It got people’s attention.

    I suggest all detractors watch television commercials selling you useless destructive products sometime, maybe even Fox News if you can stomach it for a couple minutes. Maybe your energy is better spent criticizing those guys rather than a small (but hopefully growing) campaign to save woodland caribou and the forests of Canada from destructive logging companies such as AbitibiBowater.

    Always fun to see us eating our own.

  13. Frank P

    It’s great to see a clever initiative like this to help protect caribou, which (let’s face it) otherwise don’t get much attention. I want a world in a few decades that will still have this iconic and unique species in it, and I think all the agonizing about ethics here is pretty small. The scale of “deception” here is minuscule, especially compared to the PR from logging companies and governments that we all accept without a murmur. This is a great way to engage public interest, and SMG didn’t do anything wrong – in fact, they did some great pro bono work for a very deserving cause. I’m a fan.

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