Focus: Campaign of the week - What does an albatross look like?

Graham Willgoss, graham.willgoss@haynet.com

The RSPB is launching a campaign designed to draw attention to the threatened extinction of the albatross and recruit a new generation of supporters.

The charity's Once extinct, you can only imagine campaign includes a series of TV commercials shown on Sky One and Sky Three that feature interviews with children about what they think an albatross looks and sounds like and what it eats. Press ads and posters also feature drawings of 'albatrosses' made by children.

"We asked schoolchildren what they thought an albatross was, and the answers we got were highly imaginative," said Chris Arnold, chief executive of Blac, the agency that created the campaign. "If we don't act to save these majestic birds, our children will never see a real one and will only be able to imagine. What started out as research turned into a powerful creative idea."

The campaign, which the RSPB intends to run throughout September, will also feature on web banners, in direct mail and in short commercials shown on transvision screens at 10 London railway stations.

Jonathan Wright, brand marketing manager at the RSPB, said the drive was designed to "reach beyond its traditional audience" and recruit younger and more 'urbanite' supporters.

"We want to reposition the RSPB as a dynamic conservation organisation," he said. "Few people realise how active we are as a conservation charity, both in the UK and around the world. We need to change minds to help save the albatross."

According to the RSPB, albatrosses are under threat because of industrial scale longline fishing. To catch valuable fish such as tuna, fishing vessels set lines of up to 130km in length with baited hooks. The albatross see the bait, become hooked and drown. The charity claims 100,000 birds a year are killed in this way.

"When we conducted our focus groups, few people knew what an albatross was, let alone that it was under threat of extinction," said Paul Forecast, London project manager at the RSPB. "The campaign message is clear - act now or the albatross will become extinct."

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