All over central London, 250 elephants are blending into their surroundings. This one is in Carnaby Street, the one below is in Golden Square. They surprise people. They delight people. Whenever you chance across one you see people staring, smiling and posing for photos.
Serendipity and joy combined. That's just what the marketing doctor ordered right? So I feel a little churlish noting that when my abiding reaction is that of a missed opportunity, of wondering why they didn't go the extra yard. But the point is that I noted the elephants, assumed they were connected to some sort of promotion and did exactly nothing. Yes there were notices, but I didn't take them in. I was more intrigued by the elephants themselves and people's reaction.
The moment was lost or, at least, not maximally exploited. Yes, people will be talking about the elephants, but where was the call to immediate action? Where was the invitation to do something then and there via their ubiquitous digital devices? Perhaps theres a regulatory issue here - but I fear that it's just a lack of joined-up ambition that prevented there being an obvious opportunity for text-based donation (rather than the opaque "text to help") or some sort of QR-code education.
Googling reveals that this is the work of the elephant family charity and has been successful in other capitals before now. The purpose is to raise awareness of the imminent potential extinction of the Asian elephant and the immediate aim is "to raise a projected £2 million" (I assume via donations and the auctioning of the elephants in July) "by attracting an estimated audience of 25 million".
Those quotes reek of PR speak and old thinking to me and while they've been successful before and I surely hope they will be more than successful in reaching their targets this time, I just fear they could be underachieving given the impact their brilliant idea has attracted.
Awareness is one thing, awareness of a campaign gimmick is something less. In this fast-moving attention-poor world, if you do manage the difficult task of getting their attention you need to enrich it by making it easy and compelling for people to act. Then and there.