Orchids and Onions: EWT has said it as it is

The EWT billboards have a two-tier effect: first is the awe as you see the photograph, followed by the gut punch of the copy.

When I had my “conversion” it wasn’t on the Biblical road to Damascus, but on the back of a large elephant.

In the beginning it had seemed like one of those “bucket list” things to do: not many people had ever ridden on the back of Loxodonta africana, the African elephant, and I wanted to have something unusual to brag about around the braai.

The reality was painfully different. Sitting without a saddle or any padding on the spine of an adult elephant brings new meaning to the word split, and you get in touch with parts of your anatomy you never knew you had.

However, it was the handlers’ use of metal rods to push the animals in the direction we wanted to go – with some force and clearly inflicting pain, even through those thick hides – which made revulsion flow up within me.

Since then, I have refused to become involved with “animal experiences”, where animals come into contact with humans. It’s just not right.

And that judgment is based on my gut feeling that these “shows” are circus-like and a perversion of the natural order.

Now that I have seen the stunning billboards for the latest Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) campaign, about petting captive carnivores, and heard the rationale, I know this sort of human interface is more than just something that makes you feel bad: it can endanger wild animals.

EWT’s argument is that petting captive carnivores is the last link in a cruel and potentially deadly chain. The organisation says cubs (mainly lions but leopards are also used in this way), are often removed from their mothers for use in “petting zoos”, which is stressful for both species.

Worse, though, is that once the cute cubs get too big, they cannot be reintroduced to the wild and may be sent to a “canned hunting” farm, to be shot by hunters paying hefty money.

The EWT billboards have a two-tier effect: first, is the awe, as you see the photograph, followed by the gut punch of the copy. One billboard features a cute little girl, hugging an even cuter lion cub. The message: Your kindness is killing me. The second shows a young woman with an older lion cub. Killing me softly is the stark headline.

Well done to the EWT for putting this issue on the agenda and well done to Artifact Advertising for executions which get the message across so clearly. Orchids to you both.

One of the things I don’t mind government doing is supporting entrepreneurs and so, when the Gauteng government mentioned the Ansys group and its CEO, Teddy Daka, I assigned our two young interns to do a piece on him.

They politely asked for an interview, in which they wanted to know about how Daka had started out on the road to success, and what inspired him. My brief to them was write a piece from that interview which might inspire others, because Teddy Daka is indeed a role model.

His PA, Lebo Madiga, came back in a superior arrogant way and said she “could not grant the interview”, because it was “not pitched right for Teddy”. Apparently, he deigns to speak about himself and only wishes to talk about his company and sector.

Any good PR company out there want to pitch their services to him? Because, Ms Madiga, Teddy Daka and Ansys have missed an opportunity to get some free, and soft publicity. It would have been a non-controversial piece and an opportunity to reveal the human side of Teddy Daka.

Most importantly, though, he would have been able to put something back into the community (and the government has been supporting his enterprise, according to Gauteng Premier David Makhura) … by inspiring others.

Just as important, because our Citizen.co.za website is optimised for search engines, the chances of our soft feature appearing on Google’s search results would have been high.

Lost marketing opportunity – or, more correctly, deliberately rejected marketing opportunity, will always equal an Onion.

Not even Elon Musk or Bill Gates, when they were starting out, turned away free positive publicity like this…

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