Earlier this year, a leading Indian telecom services company Aircel launched it’s “Save our tigers” campaign which aimed at increasing awareness about the dwindling tiger population and increase youth participation in tiger conservation.

The number 1411 was thrown at us everywhere we went, from television commercials, newspaper adverts to billboards all over the country. What a lot of people failed to notice was the fine print which read, “1411 is the average estimate of India’s wild tigers, as per the monitoring exercise by Wildlife Institute of India in association with NTCA, Govt. of India in 2008.”

The initial “impact” was phenomenal, the campaign’s official Fan Page “Stripey the Cub” on social networking site Facebook had more than 1,00,000 fans, people were discussing what they thought should be done, they even got together in various cities and held awareness campaigns. More than 500 other groups about saving tigers were started on Facebook alone. In an instant, saving tigers was the “cool thing to do!”

It was all going great, but for how long?

On the 17th of February, the environment ministry declared that the 1411 figure was exaggerated, “The figure of 1,411 tigers in India is exaggerated in my view. The number is lower than what is being highlighted.” environment minister Jairam Ramesh said.

So was the figure 1411, the basis of their campaign, wrong?

Technically it wasn’t, it was clearly mentioned in the fine print that the figure was from 2008.

According to WPSI, the total figure of documented tiger deaths in 2009 was 85 [53 natural deaths & 32 poaching cases]. The actual figure could be even higher. In fact 5 tigers were reported dead and 1 tiger skin was seized in January 2010.

Since the campaign started in 2010, why weren’t these deaths taken into consideration? Why were they still publicizing 1411?

One might feel that this campaign has succeeded in creating substantial awareness about tiger conservation, but has it?

After the initial uproar subsided, it has all come to a stand still. The last official update from Aircel on both facebook and twitter was on 19th March 2010.

As the company gears up for phase two of it’s campaign by roping in Amitabh Bachchan as their campaign ambassador and partnering with NDTV and Sanctuary Magazine, it seems to have completely ignored it’s online presence which made it this big a success.

The crores of rupees spent on expensive ad campaigns with famous sports stars and actors should have instead been utilized for the actual conservation of tigers.

Now what started off as an effort to save India’s tigers seems to be more like ‘just an other ad campaign’ to promote the brand, doesn’t it?

1 thought on “1411

  1. 1411 converts
    Conservation needs people to implement initiatives at the ground level and advocates to spread awareness. Both activities require funds. Although there is no undermining the greater need of funds at the ground level, but conservation advocacy by way of films/articles/other media is also of great importance.
    The point you raise about ‘1411’ being just another ad campaign is valid. To understand it we should see how the ad market works. It cashes on, or creates new trends and leverages them for the sake of “brands” they want to sell. In today’s world, it is now fashionable to be “environmentally aware”. The ad makers have caught on to this. And suddenly the TIGER, epitome of all things wild and natural, has become glamorous. It’s a bit like how page-3 socialites talk about slum children at high society parties. So the ‘1411’ ads may be talking about the TIGER, but in reality are meant to sell SIM cards. The money could have made a lot of difference had it been spent on ground level conservation. No doubting that. But let us see the glass half full rather than half empty.
    Aircel had allocated a certain amount as their advertising budget that had to be spent in one ad or the other. By taking 1411 as the theme they have done us a world of good. They have spread the news amongst the masses and many more people are aware of the dire situation than would have been had they gone in for some other theme. Taking MS Dhoni as the spokesperson works better as he appeals to generation X, our future advocates and saviors.
    So the company may have sold millions of SIM cards by riding the tiger. They may have done nothing to save even 1, but for me if this campaign tosses up even 1411 converts, it is a job well done.
    Vikramjit Singh Bal
    Documentary filmmaker

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