Aircel’s Save Our Tigers: advertising in CSR skin?

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Quick, name 5 CSR initiatives from Indian corporates? Takes a while to make list? It could be partly because of the low profile companies seem to maintain about their CSR initiatives. In my view, the mantras followed by corporates for effective CSR programmes are: (a) first do, then talk (b) getting other people to talk about it is better than talking about it yourself.  Sakthi Masala of Tamil Nadu employs disabled women in their factories – they even got the Energy and Resources Institute’s (TERI) CSR Award. P&G India has been involved in the Shiksha campaign for long. These and several others (including the e-choupal initiative) use advertising less and PR more for their social causes.

Aircel thought differently with their ‘Save our Tigers‘ campaign. They decided to go in for a high-decibel, multimedia campaign attempting to raise awareness about the low count of Tigers in India. It is a slick campaign overall, utilizing all the weapons in the marketing armour: celebrities, new media, PR etc. But it’s visibility may well be it’s strength and weakness. Now every Farmville-playing, what-I-had-for-breakfast tweeting web addict knows that there are only 1411 tigers left. Many of them would have re-tweeted, joined the Facebook group and felt that they have done their bit for Saving the Tiger. And move on to other things in life.  Is that the desired end result of the campaign. Am sure not, but could very well end up being so.

This is not dismiss the effort as pointless. From a marketing strategy POV, taking up a niche cause was a smart move. Now no corporate will go near a social cause with the words ‘Save’ and ‘Tiger’ attached to it. Aircel pretty much has created a category, as it were. They’ve also put in huge monies and tied up with credible names like WWF.  So at least among the city slickers and TV-watchers (which is a huge number) there is an awareness of Tiger’s dwindling numbers.

But the real change can only happen at the Government level or among those who interact with the wildlife – people unlikely to be influenced by TV campaigns. Or so I think. The Save Our Tigers campaign comes across as advertising dependent and leaves some critical questions unanswered or left ambiguous:

(a) what specific steps can I take to make a difference. ‘Speak up’ is not good enough for me. If it is a monetary contribution – ask for a specific amount. The world over, the hallmark of fund-raising direct marketing campaigns is to ‘ask for a specific amount’ for charitable institutions.

(b) what steps does the Govt need to take to ensure that the numbers go down? How do we track or control that?

c) what is the next phase of the campaign? how do I know if the campaign is successful?

Thanks to the multi-media effort, while everyone seems to know about Stripey and may go ‘aaawww, cho chweet‘ to the TV commercial, it takes a lot more than that to save the Tiger. Hopefully,  the next phase of this campaign will tell us how.



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  1. @bhatnaturally … will any1 go out and save the tigers by FB/ Tweets & Blogs … i agree u raise awareness. Period.There’s no clear agenda.

  2. I see this cause-based advertising as no different from celebrity endorsements… sufficient to create some buzz and make people notice (and perhaps even make them feel like they are doing) but this cannot be called CSR. What has Aircel done in the last few years to save the tiger; as a corporate, what initiatives has it taken up to improve the cause of tigers and those who are responsible for them? What Government policies has it influenced? Does it have a target to increase 1411 to say, 1500 in 3 years' time? CSR is not lip service, neither is it shouting from roof-tops. It has to be ingrained into business practices and organization culture. Otherwise, it's just another hollow marketing campaign.

  3. What it does to Aircel's business, is anybody's guess….I'd put it down squarely as a 'lack of ideas' (both agency and the marketing department ) in the face of some stiff competition from other brands.
    It's time to "save the brand" from the marketing department!!

  4. Of course it's faux-CSR. Something IDEA has been doing even more discreetly (?).
    The masterstroke here was that they put a number to it. We all know 1411 is a volatile number, but it did give the whole campaign a much more credible/serious tone. About its effectiveness, it's zero i'm afraid.

  5. Sriram Iyer Reply

    I was thinking about the campaign over the week. I visited the website and instantly clicked on What-can-I-do. They tell me to spread the word, which is fair – but I guess all of them have already been covered by this campaign. Other than donating money – avoiding de-forestation, using less-paper and timber is all fine- but how much of this effort will 'actually' go into saving tigers?

    So now people are taking about saving tigers, which is great news. But they could have prolly done something 'concrete'. How about tying up with Govt. agencies – like the forest dept. and the animal welfare board – for they are the ones who are 'actually supposed' to save tigers.

    We have been reading news reports about how villagers kill tigers that encroach their space. How about spreading some awareness there? and stopping that from happening.

  6. Gents – with all due respect. Lets give the devil his due.

    There is no lack of ideas out there. There is no lack of money out there. The fact that someone has chosen 'save the tigers' is a good move. Changes happen when you get to know of a problem. Most Indians didnt know of the problem yet. Thanks to Aircel – they now do. The fact that Aircel is piggybacking on that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. They run a business – and its hard to get corporates to back up such efforts. Can more be done – of course. No questions. Is anyone else doing anything? Apart from Aircel mobilizing people – I don't see anyone else. Do you? Maybe when you look in the mirror – you do. Or maybe not. The 162000 odd people who are registered believe they are (and they are – in their own capacities).

    Its easy to rip something 'nice' from the sidelines. Its difficult to do it. Even more so if you have to take the call of investing 10 Cr into such a project – which has (apparently) no direct ROI.

    My $0.02


    • Mrigank, thanks for the comment. As I said in my post: taking up a niche cause was a smart move…at least among the city slickers and TV-watchers (which is a huge number) there is an awareness of Tiger’s dwindling numbers. However, if one is serious about addressing the root cause of the problem and finding a solution, it take a lot more than awareness.

      • samson samuel Reply

        I guess awareness is the first step for any issue, whether it be condomns, or polio or antismoking or any of the 30000 ones that exists. well all this will be narrowed down to specific action led measures at one point or the other. Aircel has been supporting the WWF from almost a year did anyone know this? i guess no one will. I guess that its a much more serious issues cause it involves legislations and govt bodies which is far beyond the common mans control. The best way is to tickle up the govt or make them feel responsible for this cause is to create a body of regular people who raises voice against these issues wherein the govt. feel that its a serious concern. I guess thats the initial task and which i think is almost been done, or is it? The second being how to integrate the commoner and get them involved in finding a solution, which i guess is going to be the 2nd step. Third is to practically making these solutions viable and more feasible. Which is much more complicated than just sending a message or collecting money. To solve a problem in the system first of all we need to be part of the system. Its easy for anyone from outside to say you can do this you can do that but reality is far deeper than this. I guess Aircel has thought about this and have planned ahead. Will have to wait and watch. Or it would go down the memory lane like the many other campaigns which have come and gone.


    as we all know that nature has provided us a large number of species of "BIG CATS" to the earth but what we are doing now a days? we are just ignoring the presence of them. we are just hampering those for our benefits. So, we have to stop hunting or hampering tiger and "SAVE TIGER".

  8. Completely agree, cant decipher how 100,000 roars on Facebook would help in saving the tiger, awareness and “sorry”feelings for Strippey have increased but no one has moved their little finger to save the tiger…

    I had also posted similar feelings on

  9. I asked one of the kid… who was part of the on-ground promotion the same… – so what can we really do to save the tigers other than wearing these badges and giving an orange paint thumb print… he tells me 'sir we are just creating awareness and due to this awareness hopefully something will happen' ?????!!!!!!!!


  11. We should not hunt.We should not buy animal skin.We should make artifical

    fibre.Save our tigers!.I am a 10 yaers old boy and I love every animal in this


  12. Vinay V Varangaonkar Reply

    When the Big Cats are in trouble and Big B is writing on his blog to save it then onel should think to to save the tigers. if there are no tigers or any beasts the it will affect to the life cycle. India is always follow the rule "Jivo Jivasya Jeevanam" lets take a oath that i will do some thing to save the Tigers as much I can.

  13. I just love the tigers and will say that – SAVE THE TIGERS.I don't want the tigers to be extinct. I will tell as many as people to join the save the tiger group and will to something for the tigers . jdjjkqvgwgvju

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