Case study: Whaling appeal goes back to basics

The Environmental Investigation Agency's whale appeal.

Organisation: Environmental Investigation Agency
Campaign: Whale appeal
Agency: In-house/Revolting

The Environmental Investigation Agency raised £22,445 from a direct mail pack sent to 2,441 supporters in the summer of 2006 to coincide with a meeting of the International Whaling Commission, the intergovernmental body responsible for the management of whaling.

Before the commission meeting, the agency believed that Japan and other pro-whaling nations stood a good chance of overturning the international ban on commercial whaling that has been in place since 1986.

How it worked
An appeal mail pack was sent to 2,441 supporters in the UK and overseas. It comprised a cover letter, window sticker and outer and return envelopes.

The letter explained how the agency urgently needed funds to attend the IWC meeting in order to defend the ban on commercial whaling.

The letter also told how the agency's lobbying had put shareholders in the Japanese whaling fleet under so much pressure that they had announced their intention to sell their shares. It also asked supporters to help fund a campaign to convince shareholders to shut the industry down, and promised to lobby seafood producer the Maruha Group, owner of Taiyo A&F, another seafood company that sells whale meat from scientific hunts across Japan.

The window sticker drew attention to the pack to raise awareness of the campaign, and the outer envelope included a quote from wildlife broadcaster David Attenborough: "There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea."

Supporters were asked specifically to match the largest donation they had made to the agency in the past two years. The campaign was launched in May in time for the commission meeting in June.

The agency raised £22,445 - 120 per cent more than its £10,200 target. It achieved a response rate of 28 per cent and an average gift of £32.30. For every £8 invested, the pack brought in £39.

Alice Devitt, head of marketing and development at the agency, says: "Basic direct marketing techniques, such as choosing the right moment, avoiding over-fussy formats and giving strong reasons to donate, really do work. The appeal was able to communicate a sense of urgency to our donors and really resonated with them."

Expert view: Patrick Norrie, head of copywriting at WWAV Rapp Collins London

I've made this point before, and I stand by it: honesty and focus are often two of the direct marketer's most valuable allies - as demonstrated by this mail pack. What it lacks in conventional creativity, it makes up in passion and determination.

The focal point of the pack is the letter. Logical in its structure and persuasive in its tone, it is written with conviction and belief, and leaves the recipient in no doubt about why the agency needs supporters' money.

Perhaps it could have shouted more loudly about the abhorrent practice of hunting whales under the guise of 'scientific research' and given readers more information about exactly what their money would be used for.

Minor points, I concede, but worth making nevertheless. In summary, it is a well-paced letter that makes for an interesting read. It was targeting a warm audience, but - quite rightly - didn't use that as an excuse to soften the ask.

The pack could benefit from a little more crafting and a sharpening of one or two techniques. But creativity is not the point here, and the response rates and return on investment prove it was well received.

Creativity: 2
Delivery: 3
Total: 5 out of 10

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