'Giving a monkey a camera proved problematic' - Behind the Campaign with BCW's Wild Guides

Animals were the stars of this creative campaign for the Sri Lankan Tourist Board. BCW creative director Pete Way reveals what happened.

What was the campaign, in a nutshell?

Get people excited about Sri Lanka as a potential holiday destination. But we needed to give it an alternative perspective from the usual dreary country travel films that had come before, with beautiful people wandering along a beach to a cliched voice over. So, Mark Davison, one of our brilliant creatives, came up with the idea of seeing Sri Lanka from the island’s true inhabitant’s point of view. And when we mean true inhabitants, we mean animals.

What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Animals. As in, wild animals. Elephants, turtles, monkeys, whales, dolphins, fishing cats, sloth bears, eagles, leopards, iguanas, etc.

Obviously, there is loads of footage from a Sri Lankan animal’s PoV on YouTube, right? No, apparently not, so we had to film it - all - in three weeks.

To date, the most animal thing BCW did was a film about dogs, so we were a tiny bit out of our comfort zone and needed help.

So, somewhat cockily, we spoke to the best.

James Honeyborne, the exec producer of Blue Planet II and numerous other BBC wildlife shows, was our life saving Lassie (dog, not Scottish girl) and we worked with his production company, Freeborne, to create our film.

Shooting took place over three weeks in January 2019.

Our all-female natural history production crew - again, a first - flew to Sri Lanka and filmed for three weeks solid, whilst other members of the team delivered specially shot underwater shots from the perspective of dolphins and whales.

And this was the biggest challenge, since we said it would be shot from an animal point of view. We couldn’t actually film the animals; we needed them to film themselves. Giving a monkey a camera proved problematic and elephants aren’t exactly budding Spielbergs, but we stuck with it and managed to get some incredible, intimate and often amusing footage.

In the end no animals were harmed in the making of this film, but we did break a fair few cameras.

The film was now made (as well as a couple of behind the scenes films), the client was ecstatic, and we had launched as part of a fantastic wider ‘So Sri Lanka’ campaign by our partners Wunderman Thompson Sri Lanka.

But then the worst possible thing happened. Sri Lanka was hit in a horrific bombing campaign. The bombs affected the whole country, including our fixer, whose friends and colleagues were badly injured in the attack.

But through the fear, worry, pain and tragedy, after the campaign had finished, the film organically resurfaced after being reshared by Sri Lankans after the attack – appealing to the world, to support Sri Lanka get back on her feet.

How did you measure the results?

All the usual measurements and more:

On launch, the campaign hashtag was used over 60m times and the film received 18.1m unique engagements.

The film is still live, and so far has secured over 205 pieces of key media coverage with 2.5bn impressions, achieving 200 percent of its KPIs across its key markets of the UK, China and India. The film on social media has had over 101m views, from little paid media budget.

But the main thing for us was to help Sri Lanka, even in the aftermath of a terrible disaster, show the world its true and unique face and hopefully bring tourists back to country whose economy relies upon them.

What are the biggest lessons you took away from the campaign?

    1. Dream big – we had absolutely no idea we could do this.
    2. If you work with animals, get the right people to help.
    3. Sri Lanka is an incredibly beautiful country and the people are incredibly hospitable.
    4. Baby turtles are cute.

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