Celebs go ape in bid to save London Zoo from extinction

ZSLThe Zoological Society of London, which operates both London and Whipsnade zoos, has turned to Wunderman Thompson in its hour of need to launch a major marketing campaign urging the public to donate vital funds to meet its £1m a month running costs.

Zoos have not opened their doors for almost three months, the first time London Zoo has closed in its 192-year history other than for a fortnight during the Blitz in 1940. With no grant or emergency funding, the closure, and loss of income from zoo visitors, has put a huge financial strain on both zoos – which house over 20,000 animals – as well as affecting ZSL’s global conservation work.

The first phase of the appeal, launched last week and by fronted by Sir David Attenborough, attracted the support of a gaggle of celebrities, including Jonathan Ross, Catherine Tate, Meera Syal, Bill Bailey, Alan Carr, Dane Baptiste and Shazia Mirza, who are all voicing zoo animals for the “Johnny Morris Animal Magic”-style TV ad with a serious message.

The campaign calls on the public to help save the zoos by donating through the Just Giving fundraising website or by text.

Through a series of episodes, the ads introduce the zoo’s new marketing department – the zoo’s animals. Bob the emperor tamarin monkey, voiced by Bill Bailey, chairs a zoo marketing meeting with his furred and feathered ‘colleagues’ to discuss how to raise urgent funds, with Bhanu – London Zoo’s male Asiatic lion – landing on the winning idea through an accidental screen freeze.

A shot of Bhanu’s open mouth as he yawns, creating the perfect place for the headline “Help us stay open”, has been developed into a poster campaign now live across London sites such as Box Park.

Wunderman Thompson UK chief creative officer Steve Aldridge said: “We wanted to let the animals do the talking! We worked closely with the zookeepers to understand the animals’ individual personality traits. Bringing them to life to capture the imagination of the public, inspire them into action and save the animals from possible extinction.”

ZSL director general Dominic Jermey added: “The closure of London and Whipsnade Zoos put us under immense financial pressure; we’re fighting our biggest challenge in our 200-year history. The situation ZSL is facing is anything but funny. But we know that building a connection between people and wildlife is vital to generate understanding and support.

“We’re hoping this light-hearted approach, supported by an incredible array of comedians who have generously donated their voices to our campaign, will get people smiling and donating.

“Our zoos fund global conservation work and ground-breaking science at the world-renowned ZSL Institute of Zoology. While they may have been able to reopen their gates to the public, we’re still struggling. We need help now if we are to stay open.”

The campaign will feature print, digital and TV executions; all creative services and production have been donated by Wunderman Thompson, using donated ad space.

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