afaqs!

Could the donkey be our next national animal?

By Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | January 19, 2009
The Sanctuary Asia magazine offers a platform to choose a new national animal before all the surviving tigers vanish from India

Believe & #BANNER1 & # it or not, an online poll is in process to replace the tiger as our national animal. The candidates for the position are the donkey, the monkey, the goat and the rat. Very soon, a TV campaign will also be initiated to convince people to vote for one of the four candidates. It will direct people to a website, NewNationalAnimal.com, where they can vote for a new national animal.

This funny poll is actually a serious endeavour, carried out as a mark of protest by environmental newsmagazine Sanctuary Asia against the declining number of tigers in the country. It is based on simple logic, according to which, if the problems related to poaching, deforestation and lack of political will to save the tiger are not addressed, it will soon lead to the extinction of the remaining 1,400 tigers in India.

The poll was conceptualised and developed by Contract Advertising and aims to communicate to the people and the government that they must stop taking the population of tigers for granted. Apart from exercising their vote, the website also enables people to sign an online petition, which will be directed to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), to do something to save the Indian tiger.

Raj Nair, senior vice-president and executive creative director, Contract, tells afaqs!, "All the petitions collected will further draw the PMO's attention to the apathy which surrounds the state of the tiger. After all, how can a rat or a donkey ever replace the tiger? It is the irony and the thinly veiled sarcasm that will push people to vote for a new national animal. The more votes there are, the more the attention that will be focused on the tiger. Hopefully, the PMO will find it necessary to do something about it."

He adds, "Although there is no upper limit on the number of votes or petitions to be gathered before approaching the PMO, Sanctuary Asia is targeting at least one lakh votes in the next few months before the petition is submitted."

How will Sanctuary Asia create visibility and spread the word about the website to get these one lakh votes? Speaking to afaqs!, Anish Andheria, director, Sanctuary Asia, reveals that the magazine will use both traditional and digital marketing to create a buzz and reach the people.

On the digital front, a special page, called Vote for a New National Animal, has been created on the social networking site, Facebook.com. The publisher is sending emails containing details about the online poll and the URL of the website to its subscribers and its 1,700 lead agents or environmentalists associated with the group, who will spread it further to their network of friends. SMSes about the site have been sent to 15,000 people related with the environment or its cause.

The agency has also created a few humorous films and radio spots about each of the four animals - donkey, monkey, goat and rat to convince people on its eligibility to become the national animal. These films are available on the website and uploaded on YouTube.com, so that people can use it in their blogs or share it on social networking sites. There are plans to use these films in the TV campaign, too.

Nair says, "We have been assured by a leading TV network and a leading radio station that they will support us by airing the TVCs and radio spots."

He adds, "We have also approached a corporate advertiser who has shown keen interest in taking the campaign forward through one of their brands."

The publisher is also running poster and outdoor campaigns, along with a school contact programme in about 1,000 schools to garner support for the cause.

Those who think that the tiger is the national pride of India should not be worried. This online endeavour will not literally oust the tiger as the national animal. It is just a sarcastic means of drawing attention to the seriousness of the issue of the declining tiger population of India.