Group ‘Hijacks’ Popular YouTube Videos in Effort to Save Rhinos

“People say they’re too busy for serious issues, yet they spend hours looking at the stupidest stuff online," the campaign said.

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The staff of advertising agency Ogilvy Cape Town realized that with so many pressing cat videos taking up time, getting people to care about issues like saving near-extinct species is difficult. So, when tasked with creating a campaign for their non-profit client Forever Wild to address rhino poaching, they asked themselves, “How do we compete with all of this?”

“We didn’t,” they said. Ogilvy CT came up with an idea they call “YouTube Interventions” to educate the masses about the horrifying realities of rhino poaching. “What’s driving them to extinction is demand for rhino horn in the traditional medicine markets of Vietnam and China,” Teresa Telecky, Director of Wildlife at Humane Society International, says in a video from Ogilvy, explaining their online campaign. She says it’ll be “ten years or so” before there are none left.

(MORE: Killing Fields: Africa’s Rhinos Under Threat)

The “YouTube Intervention” idea is essentially a hijacking of popular viral videos—remixing them, folding in their own message and uploading them with the same titles and tags as the original videos. Just as the guy from “My Hump—fat guy dancing (soo funny)-original upload” is shaking his behind, or David’s about to wax poetic about life following dental surgery, text appears on the screen: “While you’re watching this…this is happening.” The video moves into a split screen, the silly viral video set opposite the gut-wrenching images of rhinos in pain. The agency did this with 60 of the most popular viral videos.

This tactic targeted people who were directly searching for silly videos, and “made them face the uncomfortable reality of how they spent their time online,” Ogilvy CT explains. The campaign garnered 11,000 Facebook “likes,” 300,000 views, and a 400% increase in petition signatures. Advertising blog Copyranter highlighted the agency’s effort, writing, “this is how you do a Save Wildlife campaign these days.”

If you can’t beat ‘em, after all, join ‘em.

 MORE: In Europe’s Museums, Rhino’s Horns are Easy Pickings