How an entire Country gave birth to an Elephant

She is a healthy one year old female ‘celebrity.’ She was born to a Thai mother, on the 17th of May last year at 8.45, weighing 80 kilos and was on her feet after 20 minutes of her birth.

Belgium’s favourite baby elephant Kai Mook (Pearl in English) was famous from the moment the country saw the first ultra-sound scan. When her mother became pregnant, the Antwerp Zoological Gardens decided to leverage the pregnancy to drive more visitors to the zoo. So they decided to share the news with everyone, got them interested and engaged in the story, making the whole of Belgium feel as if they were involved in the pregnancy.

“So just like any proud future parent, the zoo decided to show everyone the very first ultrasound. The scan was projected onto prominent buildings, along with a URL directing people to a central website, www.baby-olifant.be. On the site, the zoo not only invited people to suggest names for the baby elephant but also kept it updated with developments during the pregnancy. Daily news was posted onto the site, along with information about the mother and baby and a calendar countdown.

“The content was spread via social media with photos on Flickr and videos on YouTube. A tool was created to allow people to create a customized Facebook profile picture that featured their face with an elephant's trunk entering the frame and the message ”I’m also waiting for baby K.”

“When the labor started, interested parties were notified by SMS and invited to watch the birth live. Never before had so many Belgians watched a live event together online. More importantly, Antwerp Zoo welcomed 300,000 more visitors (200,000 paying) in 2009 than it did in 2008.” reports AdAge MediaWorks on the success of the communication campaign.

While ‘advertising’ in Sri Lanka is pretty much confined to traditional media, the rest of the world has moved on to ‘communication.’ It’s not one-way messaging on television, newspapers and radio anymore.

‘Advertising’ has evolved into consumer engagement – two-way communication. The world has moved on from traditional advertising to brand activation, digital marketing and beyond. Now with augmented reality, one could experience true-to-life 3D holographic rendition of any product right in their own hands, at their own leisure, creating an amazing brand experience.

At the same time, on this side of the Indian Ocean, we are led by agencies that are incapable of maintaining their own online presence (for example, JWT Colombo as not updated their blog in over 7 months!), let alone providing any brand with any sort of ground-breaking digital communication solutions.

We have a long way to go, don’t we?


  1. with reference to your final question, i agree. i'm not an expert in business/ marketing but even to someone like me it is evident that sl is just not timely enough & is sadly getting left behind.

  2. One of the many fields in which I fear we're getting left behind. We're still stuck in the 'consumer is an idiot' (or 'voter is an idiot') era... :D

  3. @Dandelion: Sad, but true. ;(

    @Chavie: So true. I’m trying to see in which field are we leading... oh, I got one: per-capita alcohol consumption!

  4. @S_I and @ Chavie - why is that per-capita alcohol consumption is on the increase - there is NO advertising after all...

  5. maf: I was kidding about per capita alcohol consumption. Apparently, we are one of the lowest in the world (UK = 11.8 vs SL = 0.3 liters per year). It is the public opinion that we consume a lot of alcohol in Sri Lanka. ;)

  6. Nice post! quite true that we see only a handful of businesses even have regular updates on their online presence... Have seen some good initiatives by SL Tourism lately, but dont know how well they would keep it up...

  7. well..the same old story isn't it..Sri Lanka really needs to stand up on it's feet ,,,or we are going to have to sprint laps to catch up with the rest of the world in communication and technology..