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Born Free Foundation ‘#TankFree’ / WCRS

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To celebrate World Orca Day on 14 July the Born Free Foundation teamed up with WCRS to confront the British public with the harsh reality of whales living in captivity. There are currently 62 orcas around the world confined to cramped concrete tanks and forced to perform unnatural tricks at marine parks and aquariums. This lack of freedom is even more shocking considering that these whales can swim up to 100 miles a day in the wild. Research has found that the captive creatures experience heightened anxiety and aggression, boredom, a lack of physical fitness and in many cases early death. Born Free’s mission is to put an end to this practice.


With a creative use of outdoor advertising, WCRS came up with the idea of displaying images of whales ‘in captivity’ on large digital billboards in major city hotspots. The animated life-sized orcas appeared within a recreation of the concrete tanks in which they are often kept and the general public, after being informed through on-screen text that the display replicated the actual size of a captive orca’s tank, had the opportunity to set them free by texting a donation to the charity. For every £5 donation a whale was freed from the confines of the digital screen, swimming away across other nearby digital screens, yet soon after another trapped cetacean appeared.


Running under the strapline ‘#TankFree’, the campaign invited passers-by to take selfies in front of the spectacular screens and tweet the photos under the campaign’s hashtag. Supporters could also head to the Born Free website to adopt a wild orca and pledge to never visit a dolphinarium.


Ocean Outdoor donated the digital screens for the campaign which was created with the help of both WCRS and visual effects company The Mill. The work ran on The Screen @ Arndale in Manchester, the Birmingham Media Eyes, Liverpool’s Media Wall and St Enoch in Glasgow, as well as the Four Dials digital outdoor screen in London’s Westfield Stratford.


The campaign gained much traction on Twitter with support coming from far and wide including celebrities such as reality TV star Oliver Proudlock. Another celebrity patron, Lady Victoria Hervey, also personally visited the Westfield Stratford site and promoted the work on social media. WCRS has previously worked with Born Free on its ‘SanctuariesNotTanks’ outdoor campaign which also used powerful visuals to demonstrate its point. Posters showed a whale on puppet strings being conducted by a human hand.


By putting the power to do good in the hands of the public (literally, they could donate via their mobile phones) the campaign simultaneously made those donating feel both influential on a personal level as well as part of a wider movement - one that they probably did not expect to get involved with when they left the house for their local shopping centre. Due to the donations having a real-time effect on the digital visuals and the viewer’s ability to see a personalised thank you message just for them appear on screen, the campaign made for an exciting interactive effort. People often refrain from donating to charities as they do not see a direct effect of where their money is going, yet with this campaign WCRS came up with a clever solution; to let the public ‘set the whales free’ themselves.


Ocean Outdoor’s head of marketing, Helen Haines, said of the campaign, ‘Equating the screen size with the size of a tank is a powerful message. This campaign is a beautiful use of creative out of home spaces and it’s nice that the connection, interaction and positive action coincides on one day.’