The Gorilla Organization's #tobyandhilary campaign

The charity has made four funny films with Bill Oddie about endangered mountain gorillas, of which there are fewer than 900 left in the world

What is it?

The #tobyandhilary campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the work of the Gorilla Organization, is a series of four short, light-hearted films featuring the environmentalist and broadcaster Bill Oddie. The films, a partnership between the conservation charity and the London-based film production company Earl Productions, centre on the lives of the fictitious primatologist Sir Hilary Inkelsson (played by Oddie) and his adopted son, Toby the gorilla. The charity released the first of the films on 30 July and the remaining three will be distributed online and screened at festivals and cinemas throughout the UK over the next few weeks.

What does the campaign hope to achieve?

The first film, Run, is aimed at building support for the Gorilla Organization’s annual fundraising event, the Great Gorilla Run 2015, while the other films are designed to increase the number of people signing up to the charity’s gorilla adoption programme. The charity wanted to raise awareness of the plight of gorillas in a light, playful way which might appeal to younger audiences.

How did the idea come about?

The main message imparted by the films is that "gorillas need friends". The Gorilla Organization came up with this idea after being approached by Earl Productions, which offered to work with the charity on a pro-bono basis. Bill Oddie devised the films’ theme – that of an old, eccentric primatologist and his gorilla friend – and provided the comedy.

How is it being promoted?

The charity is uploading the films on its YouTube channel between now and September 20th, as well as sharing them via Facebook and Twitter. It has also secured pro bono support from the PR firm 6 Hillgrove, which has been pitching the films to the mainstream media and drew up a PR plan for the charity to follow as it launches the films. 

How successful has it been?

The charity is currently only a quarter of the way through the campaign, but 50 new runners signed up for the Great Gorilla Run in the week after the first film was released. The charity says is a better result than it has seen from advertising in London listings magazines and through flyers outside tube stations. It also attracted 500 new followers on Twitter and the number of people signing up to adopt gorillas reached the level normally only seen in the run-up to Christmas.

What the charity says

Jillian Miller, executive director of the Gorilla Organization, says: "With fewer than 900 left in the world, the plight of the mountain gorilla is as serious as ever. But we wanted to move away from negative campaigning and working with Bill allowed us to do just this. We wanted the films to highlight just how similar gorillas are to us."

Third Sector Verdict

The Gorilla Organization has done an excellent job of leveraging its network not only to secure free film production, but also to secure free celebrity time and  free PR support (although the latter has yet to bring about any mainstream media coverage). As a result, it has spent very little – even the gorilla was played by a volunteer dressed in a gorilla suit (sorry to disappoint). The impact so far has been relatively small, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the charity only has one communications employee who works one day a week. Not everyone will find the films terribly funny, though - particularly the one entitled Moby Dick, which could put some people off because of  its puerile sexual content.

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