Stopping the Ivory Trade – Working to Save the Elephants
Stop Ivory coalition of conservation NGOs
Date of Work
In summer 2016 Lexington was engaged by several conservation NGOs to provide strategic advice and communications support on the campaign to end the ivory trade ahead of a series of major international conferences in the autumn. Our task was to build external support for the campaign amongst government and media influencers, as well as galvanising strong public support. Subsequently, in November 2017, we were re-engaged to drive responses to, and interest around, the new DEFRA consultation on banning the ivory trade, with a view to convincing the Department to act in favour of a strong ban.
Lexington devised and implemented a political and media engagement strategy to build public and political support for action. We built relationships with key journalists in the national press and provided comment pieces and stories, as well as hooking on to other news stories.
The campaign benefitted from strong relationships with senior influencers, including former Cabinet members, members of the House of Lords and public figures. Lexington worked with members to utilise this support by bringing them into campaign, through meetings and briefing opportunities, and also harnessing it in external communications through opinion pieces and interviews in key publications. We also provided strategic advice on engagement with Government departments, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Number 10, and forged positive relations with officials, ministers and special advisers.
Lexington also focused on maximising the public support for our campaign. We carried out public opinion polling and used this to drive media coverage and build the case for Government intervention, including designing infographics which were shared at an international conference. We also helped members use their digital presence to build public engagement with the issue by providing web content and advice on social media strategies, including creating a new platform for members of the public to contact their MP.
When the consultation was announced, we built a new page on the website of Stop Ivory which would enable visitors to submit a pre-written responses to the consultation with one click, one which reflected the coalition’s priorities. We then produced images and a short animated video which we used as collateral for a targeted campaign of Facebook adverts (costing £5,500), aimed at UK residents with an affinity towards conservation, elephants and wildlife charities, informed by existing audience data provide by the Coalition partners, encouraging them to ‘Save The Elephants’ with a click.
The campaign was effective in building public and political support for the campaign. We generated a significant amount of media coverage in national papers, including opinion pieces from NGO leaders, MP and former Cabinet Ministers. In addition, there were two debates in Parliament over a two month period and many parliamentary questions.
The Government announced plans to toughen legislation on the ivory trade in September 2016 and NGOs have been in continued discussion with the Government regarding its scope and implementation. In October 2017, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced he would consult immediately on banning the UK ivory trade. A ban is expected to be in place by the end of the year.
An independent review of the campaign praised Lexington’s contribution as ‘vital’ in bringing together different groups, establishing a coherent voice and making an impact, concluding ‘Lexington did a brilliant job of coordinating and keeping the coalition agile and being proactive and reactive in a timely manner.’
Our 2017 social media campaign reached over 700,000 people in just four weeks, and drove 39,000 out of the total of 70,000 consultation responses DEFRA received over a four week period Our campaign generated the second largest number of responses, backing a ban and calling for greater restriction on the proposed exemption around items of cultural, artistic and historical significance, –with only Avaaz, the 49million member campaigning organisation, driving more.
DEFRA responded to the consultation in April 2018, confirming that following a significant majority of responses in favour, they would be introducing one of the tightest bans on ivory sales in the world, including restricting even further the exemption on items of cultural, historic and artistic significance, singled out in the Stop Ivory response to the consultation. The Government praised the work of NGO’s in bringing about this change and coverage of the announcement highlighted the key role that public engagement in the campaign had played.