WSPA monkeying around in Toronto

The guerilla gorilla comes to Toronto

The Canadian chapter of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has developed a new “gorilla” marketing campaign.

In partnership with Mango Moose Media, the WSPA has developed a stunt marketing initiative designed to grow its donor list while raising awareness of the plight of the Bonobo ape and other endangered animal species.

The initiative kicked off yesterday with a costumed “mother ape” prowling the streets of Toronto’s financial district seeking her missing baby. The ape is distributing flyers bearing the headline “Lost Great Ape” which contain the animal’s particulars – black hair, brown eyes, 98.7% of human DNA – and describing how the Bonobo is being driven to extinction by the bushmeat trade.

The posters feature a QR code that takes users to a secure mobile donation site, and also explain how people can donate online via a mobile microsite ( or via text or telephone.

The guerrilla marketing initiative is being supported by a series of wild postings designed to look like “lost pet” flyers. Like the “Lost Great Ape” posters, “Lost Bear” and “Lost Whale” posters outline how those species are being harmed by human activity and urge people to donate.

“When you walk around the parks, you often see ‘Lost Dog’ or ‘Lost Cat’ posters, and people often stop to read them,” said Alex Tom, director of development and marketing for the WSPA in Toronto. “We took this as our cue to launch an inexpensive but attention-getting tactic.”

According to Tom, the WSPA currently has an active donor list of about 100,000 people in Canada. While its donor list is growing rapidly – approximately 45% in the past four years according to Tom – it is still considerably smaller than that of other organizations in its category, such as the Ontario Humane Society and the Ontario SCPA.

Tom said that the organization’s standard marketing tactics – which include direct mail, online and telemarketing – have been “stagnant” or declining in recent years. “We needed to find another channel to get awareness, so we thought ‘Let’s test something that is fairly inexpensive but [capable of] getting people’s attention,’” he said.

The guerrilla campaign concludes tomorrow, while the poster campaign will run through July. It will be rolled out into other major markets across the country based on its performance, said Tom.

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