WWF’s history and
the importance of novelty.
In the language of flowers, lupins represent “imagination” and “fantasy.” In ancient Europe, it was said that eating lupins would make you feel cheerful and stimulate your imagination. There are also theories that they were eaten as a medicinal herb, and as a snack with beer. They may have been effective at liberating the mind. Among these flowers, rose colored lupins represent “curiosity.” They can also be seen as a medium that leads to encounters with a presence that has never been seen before in a world of fantasy. However, it is not good to use too much fertilizer for these flowers because they vigorously absorb them. I personally think that it is important to input various information when it comes to stimulating your imagination. Whatever the case may be, this flower seems to give me inspiration in some way. The small butterfly looking flowers blooming together in a stick shape, which resembles a magic wand.
“Imagination” is very important for communication. Even today, people in the communication industry will often ask, “To what extent can you see things from someone else's point of view?” No matter how much information you get from an advertisement, it may be useless from the viewer's perspective, leaving them completely unmoved. From the point of view of the sender, they have a particular message they want to you to take away, so with a certain degree of control, media, including commercials, tend to repeat only the sender's thoughts. However, for people with no interest in the information at all, the message will pass right through them, and sometimes can even be seen as annoying or a nuisance. There are many people who hide or report the recommended information that is frequently displayed on websites out of frustration, and similarly while browsing the Internet and social media. It is often said that “Too much can be as bad as too little,” and an enthusiastic approach sometimes unconsciously turns into an unacceptable approach for receivers.
This tells us that it is important not only to convey your message, but also to communicate with others by grasping their feelings. Just because you want to share something does not mean that the other person will share the same enthusiasm. You should arrange topics that the target will likely be interested in, prepare enough information about the parts they will really get into, and prepare a second and third backup strategy, all while having a direct conversation to gauge their reactions. You should start by finding a point of common ground and interest in the conversation, and continue with telling what you want to say. It is not an exaggeration to say that people will finally start to listen to you. I would say it is just a very common procedure to pay close attention to the whole situation and the person's reactions in conversation, just like conversations in everyday life. There is no doubt that communication that automatically repeats and imposes the same information without thinking about the other person has a critical impact on the attention economy in this digital age. The attention economy is a concept proposed by Herbert Simon, a psychologist and economist who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1969, which says that people's “attention” is treated like “currency” in the economy. Since various tech companies represented by GAFA have emerged, digitalization has advanced, and we can measure numbers of active users, PV, and likes as data, which has contributed to the acceleration of this flow. On the other hand, as Herbert Simon said, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” He points out that we pay less attention to each piece of information when we get too much, because it consumes our attention bit by bit. Nearly half of the NPOs who cooperated in this survey said that “it was difficult to get people to recognize and understand the issues,” and in this information society, even if you create content, it is becoming more difficult to reach the point where people can find and understand it. The approach may not even be the right in the first place...
What can we do to break out of this so-called “situation of ignored information”? First of all, I would like to introduce the creative case of “Eurythenes plasticus,” which was launched successfully by the German branch of the WWF, an environmental conservation organization in about 100 countries around the world.
In fact, the people of Germany are said to be leading the world in waste separation. However, less than 30% of plastic is recycled, and instead of disposing of it in their country, it gets exported to Southeast Asian countries. The amount is surprisingly the third largest in the world. The countries to which plastic waste is exported are often less regulated, and the waste is simply landfilled. After that, the wind blows the waste into rivers and finally flows into the sea. The plastic waste in the ocean gradually breaks down into microplastics, and slowly falls to the bottom of the ocean. Although the microplastics dissolved in seawater are invisible to the eye, it is said that it takes 400 years to fully decompose. The WWF, which has been working on the problem of marine plastic waste, aimed to reinvigorate public attention and action on this issue that people have lost a sense of urgency for over time.
Studies of the consequences of marine plastics have shown that deep-sea creatures are already showing the effects of plastic pollution in their bodies. Surprisingly, 72% of deep-sea crustaceans were contaminated by ingested plastics. This number was a big enough to show the severity of the problem. However, they felt that the number was not powerful enough to attract the attention of a wide range of people, so they decided to promote the issue to the world as a historical discovery that everyone would want to hear. There were headlines with the title, “Discovery of a New Species of Deep-sea Creature.” They worked with deep-sea biologists to discover a new species of deep-sea creature that is contaminated with plastic, named it after the pollution, and presented it to the world. They believed that if they could jump into the special field of science and influence the taxonomic record of the Earth, it would be much more persuasive than conventional advertising campaigns, and continue to make a big impact on people through an academic approach. Whether it is a cosmic star or a new creature, when a previously unknown entity is discovered, it is sure be reported in the news and come up in conversation. If the words “contaminated with marine plastic waste” are added, the people talking about the topic would have no choice but to think about marine pollution. This way of creating spontaneous conversation and raising awareness builds a much better narrative than simple persuasion.
The new species was named “Eurythenes plasticus” after the plastics found inside them, and a scientific paper was published and reported worldwide. Shortly after, the WWF launched a campaign to collect signatures for a petition calling for a legally binding UN agreement. A total of 2.2 million signatures were submitted to the United Nations, and at the UNEA5.2 on March 2, 2022, “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument” was adopted and an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee was established. The campaign was started with the official publication of a scientific paper on March 5, 2020, and Eurythenes plasticus, as an official part of the taxonomic record on Earth, was engraved in history. They have also partnered with museums in Germany and around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution, to permanently display this new species, which lead to lasting appeal from an educational point of view. If the actual creature becomes a permanent exhibition in museums, people will see the undeniable reality of the situation, not just something they heard about. The permanent exhibitions have attracted more than 410,000 visitors, and is attracting great interest from schools. There is also a website called “plasticus.school,” an international educational resource, which has recorded thousands of downloads from educational institutions and other sources. Furthermore, Eurythenes plasticus was registered in the Guinness World Records as the first new species contaminated with plastic.
When it comes to communication, it is also important to think about “who will take the information seriously, and will they be moved if they are told.” In this modern era with countless creators on various social media platforms, many people change their minds or act while thinking, “Well, if this person says so.” Even if the information is the same, the results can be completely different depending on who the “storyteller” is. From a global perspective, if you want more satisfaction, influencers with similar hobbies and lifestyles are a good choice, while an independent expert may be better if you want more reliability. When it comes to management of a company, a story lacks meaning if it does not come from higher-ups, and for new products, the stories of the struggles of the developers involved help create sympathy. If you pick the wrong speaker, it will diminish the impact and the opportunity to share the story will be lost. Choosing the speaker carefully is essential. In that sense, the WWF is very good at storytelling. One day these suffering creatures (Eurythenes plasticus) were found in the world and brought into the spotlight, and the next they were spreading awareness about their problem. Next, I will introduce “The Ant Rally,” in which creatures themselves express their difficulties and urgency about the issue of tropical rainforest deforestation.
The Ant Rally
The campaign was designed to raise awareness about the WWF's rainforest projects. The issue of rainforest deforestation is a well-known one, but attention is slowly fading and the opportunity to solve it was lost. In order to draw attention to this issue again, an opportunity was created to highlight those who are still suffering from it and talk about their struggles. That opportunity is called “The Ant Rally.”
The demonstration, which took place at the Cologne Zoo in Germany, lasted five days and had about 500,000 participants. Each of them held signs against logging in rainforests and marched through the grounds at 3:00 a.m. every day. The signs were made of leaves with messages like “FIGHT,” “SOLIDARITY,” “SAVE TREES!” and “ACT NOW!” and the ants held them. Over those five days, 30,000 visitors watched in person, and videos posted on the WWF's website, YouTube, and the Cologne Zoo's website were seen online, amassing roughly 1,000,000 views of the demonstration.
Global social issues are topics everyone is familiar with, and when a specific incident or problem occurs, it increases people's attention all at once. However, these issues also tend to be considered something that cannot be changed, and are likely to be pushed to the back of the mind if there are no opportunities to think about them. However, it would be imprudent to wait for emergency accidents and disasters in the hope of increasing awareness. If you try to create an opportunity to spread awareness, like a demonstration, people are also likely to say “It’s always the same old thing,” and forget about it without giving it much thought. It is important to have a means of changing the viewer's mind on who is thinking about the issue and why they are acting on it. By showing the “face” of what is actually under threat, it is sometimes possible to gain more sympathy and support. It is difficult to understand who is in trouble and how they are in trouble by just hearing about it, which then makes it difficult to act. At the beginning, I mentioned that “imagination” for understand the feelings of the others is vital, but “imagination” for understanding what kind of action you can do to raise the most awareness is significant. I think it is quite difficult, and even crazy, to imagine using ants, but when you see it for yourself, you can certainly imagine their thoughts and feelings.
Let me introduce another case rallied behind a unique speaker, which is called “Animal Copyrights.” The project, titled “Animal Copyrights,” is the first photo bank created by animals themselves, starring animals, and with all proceeds donated to animals. The WWF, which usually advocates for animal rights, has now decided to protect their portrait rights as well. Working together with LatinStock, a major photo bank, an exclusive collection of images of animals was created. The series of images showed the behavior of wolves, sea turtles, eagles, and other animals, which is the most moving thing I have ever seen. It feels like I can switch places with those animals. I found it incredibly interesting. You can almost feel as if you are swimming in deep seas, exploring dark caves, and flying over endless valleys. I encourage those of you that are interested to visit LatinStock.com to purchase these photos. All proceeds from the purchases will be used to protect animals. It was designed so animals could raise funds by themselves. In addition, the images are organized according to which animals were photographed, and it is possible to know what animals the proceeds will be used to protect. As soon as the campaign was launched on March 21, 2015, various media outlets were interested in the system and praised it as a new way to use photography to raise donations. Access to LatinStock also increased by 300%, and WWF membership increased by 10%. In addition to the novelty of the images, this is an imaginative example of a speaker that is taking action to raise funds for an issue.
These examples by the WWF could be a great source of inspiration for NPOs that have trouble answering the question, “Who can successfully share information and move people?” In the case of the WWF, for many years they have continued the scheme of being conscious of these creative jumps that viewers see in the end. There are more than 50,000 NPOs working to create a better world here in Japan. Among them, there are only about 1,200 certified NPOs nationwide that meet the requirements of donation income and information disclosure, and that donors can receive tax benefits from. Moreover, more than 30% of organizations have annual earned revenue of less than 10 million yen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are struggling to secure funds for their efforts. According to the aggregated data, 33% (392 organizations) of the total were those with annual earned revenue of less than 10 million yen. There are 35% of organizations from 10 million yen to less than 50 million yen, 14% of companies from 50 million yen to less than 1 billion yen, and only 17% (206 companies) are certified as 1 billion yen or more. On the other hand, there are 49 organizations with annual income of 1 million yen or less, which is also a very tight budget to start their desired efforts. Corporations in the Kanto region that are engaged in environmental conservation will have negative net assets carried forward for the next fiscal year, which is equivalent to corporate equity capital for two consecutive years until FY2020. One of the representatives said, “Awareness is low and the funding situation is severe. It could affect our operations.” It is said that many organizations are unable to compensate for their deficits by borrowing money or pay remuneration to their staff.
The amount of donations to NPOs in the United States is 28 times that of Japan. It is understandable that there are more than 1.5 million non-profit organizations working held up by a background of abundant donations, and there are many initiatives that are entered into Cannes Lions and other organizations. However, as we have seen so far, various actions can create leverage through their ideas, and it can grow from a creative promotion to a big wave. Naturally there is no definitive rule, and I think the fact is that organizations are trying to implement measures while keeping an eye on the interests of society at that time. However, some organizations, such as the WWF, are constantly taking on challenges, finding particular schemes such as letting animals speak their own messages, and leading them to the next stage. The point is not only to lament the current issues we are facing, but to take on these challenges and work hard to overcome them. We can start by learning and imitating the success stories. It is necessary to steal good points, or in other words such as in practicing kendo and tea ceremony, something like “shuhari” is necessary. “Shu” is the phase of faithfully following the teachings, patterns, and techniques of teachers and schools to acquire skills. “Ha” is the phase of thinking about the teachings of other teachers and schools, adopting good points from them, and developing mental techniques as well. “Ri” is the phase of leaving your teacher or school and creating and establishing something unique and new. Acquiring a developing your own form will make you grow and eventually be able to create your own way through the knowledge you have gained. It is also in line with “NEW THINGS CAN COME FROM HISTORY.” which is also raised in LIONS GOOD NEWS. I would appreciate if this site become a catalyst for you to take the next step to innovation in your own behavior by understanding the past.
Finally, I would like to introduce the efficient efforts and leverage of the WWF, which Japan won the gold award in the cyber category for the first time. In other words, it is a work that can be called the cornerstone of Cyber Japan. It dates to 2002, and unfortunately, it is no longer available on “The Work” archive of Cannes Lions Awards. You might think 20 years ago is old, but a little essence piques your interest and makes you think deeply about it. It is a small banner advertisement on the Internet called “WWF Ⅱ.” As you know, banner advertisement can only be used to put a message on a really small space, but with a little ingenuity, interactive tricks from motion are also possible. This is where the WWF developed a jigsaw puzzle. It was a cute puzzle where the viewer could place scattered pieces together one by one, but come to find only one piece missing by the time they finish. Then the message flows at the perfecting timing. It says, “The missing piece Pinguinus impennis went extinct in 1844.” The missing piece is in the shape of an extinct animal to indicate that the piece will not be coming back again. Then we realize that we have lost irreplaceable life. Even a small banner advertisement can attract a lot of people's attention, and spread widely throughout society. It makes us feel that we still have a lot to learn, and it is a project that shows the attitude of the WWF that has been consistent since that time. After all, there is a lot to learn from history.
Enjoy the unexpected
resulting from coincidences.