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Safe Passage for Sea Creatures

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Sharks are dying in the Great Barrier Reef – with some species, like the unique migratory Great Hammerhead threatened with extinction due to pressure from unsustainable fishing. Research shows that hammerhead shark numbers on the Great Barrier Reef have declined by up to 83 percent since the 1960’s. Not helping is large scale commercial shark fishing, which uses 1.2km nets to catch up to 10,000 sharks each year and also trap and drown endangered dugongs, turtles and dolphins as bycatch.  

To drive action, WWF needed to create awareness around this issue and create a tangible solution for donors. In 2015, WWF raised nearly $30million across 12 national projects. With a budget of only $20,000 and a risk of creating ‘donors fatigue’, Starcom faced the challenge of making the most out a limited budget and driving donations for a company that is always raising money for another worthy cause.  

Studies have shown that charitable giving is often triggered by spontaneous emotional reactions. So it needed to create an emotional plea that was great enough to motivate an audience to take action.  


People love tangible action that will lead to a tangible outcome, that is a motivator to give.  

The agency discovered that there are five mega nets in the Great Barrier Reef, and if just one of these nets is removed from the Reef it would save 48,000 marine species per year. So, instead of just driving awareness of the cause, it decided to buy one of these nets and take it out of the Reef for good. To do this, it had to raise $100,000 to afford the net and the license.  

With this information, Starcom created a tangible outcome. By sending this message to the audience, it let them know that their donation will directly contribute to a life saved, that was a really strong motivator to donate. 


Starcom developed a one-and-a-half-minute video for social with an emotional narrative that positions the Reef as the heart and soul of the ocean; a sanctuary to be protected. 

Video footage was selected based on the narrative, using infant marine species over mature species to drive further engagement. Animated infographics were used to explain the hard-to-fathom scale of the net, ending on a very clear call to action that linked to the web based donation platform. 

The campaign was timed to launch in line with International Shark Awareness Day, July 14, to leverage the organic social engagement and media attention associated with the event. 

This core creative asset for the campaign was used on the campaign website, as a media package accompanying the news release, in EDM and on social to elevate awareness, drive engagement and provide a compelling call to action.   


In 48 hours, the campaign reached its four-week goal and raised $100,000 in donations! Based on the overwhelming response, it set out to buy a second shark fishing license. By the end of the campaign the combination of online and offline donations enabled WWF-Australia to purchase two shark fishing licenses at $100,000 each plus cover the legal fees and marketing costs associated with the campaign. 

Over 4,000 donors contributed to the campaign, including 1,900 new donors to WWF-Australia with an average gift of $67, an increase of +$17 based on the organisation’s average gift. 

The video published on WWF’s Facebook reached 370,000 people, with 180,000+ engagements and 540,000+ via the targeted Facebook advertising campaign for $10,000 spend. 87% of the referring traffic came from Facebook. With the average delivering only 2-3% referral traffic to, a significant increase. 

In the first 17 days since launch, the WWF-Australia page has received more than 26,000 unique visitors, with referrals from email recording the highest conversion rate ever. 

The campaign generated earned media coverage both nationally and then globally. Creating lasting legacy through government debate with the commercial fishing, tourism and marine departments on the best practice approaches to sustainable fishing on the Reef.

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