Antwerp Zoo – How one baby elephant moved an entire nation



Antwerp Zoo wanted to drive visitors leveraging the pregnancy of one of its elephants. It was keen to avoid typical advertising campaigns and wanted to engage as many people as possible during the gestation period. The aim was to make everyone in Belgium feel as though they were involved in the pregnancy, almost as though the elephant was one of their own children.

Just like any proud future parent, the zoo decided to show everyone the very first ultrasound. The scan was projected onto prominent buildings, along with a URL directing people to a central website, www.baby-olifant.be. On the site, the zoo not only invited people to suggest names for the baby elephant but also kept it updated with developments during the pregnancy. Daily news was posted onto the site, along with information about the mother and baby and a calendar countdown. The content was spread via social media with photos on Flickr and videos on YouTube. A tool was created to allow people to create a customized Facebook profile picture that featured their face with an elephant’s trunk entering the frame and the message “I’m also waiting for baby K”. When the labour started, everyone was notified by text message and invited to watch the birth live.

More than 1.2m people visited the website during the birth weekend and on May 17th 2009, 559, 824 people watched the birth of baby Kai-Mook live from their computers. Never before had so many Belgians watched a live event online together.
More importantly, Antwerp Zoo welcomed 300,000 more visitors (200,000 paying) in 2009 than it did in 2008. The site continues to be updated with new about the elephant’s progress.

 

THE DIRECT CAMPAIGN

How do you get 200,000 extra visitors to the Antwerp Zoo? Knowing that the Antwerp Zoo suffers severe competition from other leisure activities, that this equals a visitor increase of 18 %, that there is no real urgency for people to go to the Zoo (the animals are always there), and that bad weather can be the final reason to cancel an even already planned zoo visit (people don’t go to the zoo when it rains)?

We built a digital platform baby-elephant.be, allowing people to follow the story on a day by day basis.

They could do this by reading the baby elephant blog, by seeing regular ultrasounds, by consuming engaging user generated content , by registering to receive regular updates about the baby and the mother elephant’s condition. Gradually, KMDA (Antwerp Zoo) made them ready for the climax : the live broadcast of the birth, something that had never been done before and that would write digital history. And – ultimately – the opportunity to pay the newborn elephant a visit in the Antwerp Zoo.

Antwerp Zoo focussed on a unique and highly emotional event : the birth of a young elephant.
A story unique for Belgium and even very rare for Europe.
A story by which we would be able to evoke the complete Zoo story (apart from being a zoo, the Antwerp Zoo is renowned for its animal research and wildlife funding projects).
A story by which we could take the whole Belgium population on a unique and long journey : the pregnancy and birth of a young baby elephant.
A story by which we could no doubt increase the numbers of visitors for the Antwerp Zoo.

The results were staggering :
– 8,500 name suggestions for the new baby elephant.
– 41,000 registrations for updates.
– 850,000 unique visitors on baby-elephant.be, massive local and international press attention.
– 560,000 people watched the birth online, there were 1.2 million site visits in the birth weekend.
– 5,000 people signed the online birth register,
– 22,000 blog comments in the birth weekend.

And most importantly: the Antwerp Zoo welcomed 300,000 visitors (200,000 paying visitors) more than in 2008.





After 22 months of anticipation, twenty-eight year-old Asian elephant Khaing Phyo Phyo has finally given birth to her fourth child at Antwerp Zoo. Phyo Phyo was born wild in Myanmar, then was captured to live in the Netherlands and the UK before moving to Antwerp. Over the past eleven years she has three previous children – Timber, Sitang, and May Tagu. The father, Alexander, has been responsible for nine other healthy offspring, however this baby is the first product of Phyo Phyo and Alexander together.
An elephant birth is a first for Belgium. The anticipation was so great that many Belgians signed up for SMS alerts of the birth. The progress of the gestation, from ultrasounds to a live video of the birth, was projected onto giant screens. She was born at 8:45 AM on Sunday May 17, weighing 80 kilograms, and was on her feet within 20 minutes. Her four-year-old sister May Tagu was originally jealous, but with the help of aunt Phyo Yu Yu Yin, she now seems to have welcomed the little one into the family.
A nation-wide competition was held to name the baby, and the result has just been revealed: Kai-Mook (“pearl”). To celebrate this event, the post office will send 4.8 million postcards to the households of Belgium – a world record number of birth announcements. All of Belgium is united in celebration of this delightful event.

THE DIGITAL CAMPAIGN


To get 200.000 extra visitors to the Antwerp Zoo, we focused on a unique and highly emotional event: the birth of a young elephant. So we built a digital platform baby-elephant.be, allowing people to follow the story on a day by day basis.
They could do this by reading the baby elephant blog, by seeing regular ultrasounds, by consuming engaging user generated content, by participating in the crowdsourcing of the name of the baby elephant, by registering to receive regular updates about the baby and the mother elephant’s condition. Gradually, KMDA (Antwerp Zoo) and Boondoggle made them ready for the climax: the live broadcast of the birth, something never done before, that wrote digital history.

Advertising Agency: Boondoggle, Leuven
Creative Director: Stef Selfslagh/Vincent Jansen
Creative Team: Tom Loockx/Jorrit Hermans/Peter Vijgen/Bart Gielen
Copywriter: Hans Verhaegen



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