Sheep Gamely Portray Endangered Species in San Diego Zoo's PSAs

GS&P brings humor to conservation message

Mutton to see here!

The peacocks, giraffes, lions, rhinos and other endangered species portrayed in the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance's new PSAs just ain't right.

In fact, they're not peacocks, giraffes, lions or rhinos at all. Instead, sheep don masks, hairpieces and costumes to memorably illustrate the message: "You can't replace wildlife once it's gone."

San Diego Zoo | Imposters

"Most of us experience wildlife through nature documentaries like 'Planet Earth.' So, we tried to emulate the familiar visual language of majestic nature docs with one not-so-majestic twist," says Ryan Tovani, creative director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, which developed the ads. "Luckily, we live in a very geographically diverse state, California, with redwood groves, grasslands, beaches and mountains. So, we could mimic the exotic habitats of our endangered animals."

San Diego Zoo | Rhino
San Diego Zoo | Giraffe

That's a novel, lighthearted way to make a ... shear-ious point. (Oof!) Still, we wonder, why cast sheep?

"We asked ourselves: What would a world without diverse wildlife be like? And the answer was, well—pretty boring. And what's more boring than sheep?" says GS&P copywriter Lennie Galloway. "We also saw a statistic that domestic livestock outweigh all wildlife on earth by a significant margin. Lastly, it's a subtle play on 'a wolf in sheep's clothing.' "

Alas, the sheep don't actually portray wolves in the campaign, but who can blame them? However, the woolly im-paaaaahsters do dress up these billboards running near the zoo in Southern California:

"Animals are always unpredictable—even trained sheep like ours. They don't exactly take direction," recalls agency CD Caroline Cappelli. So, the team worked with trainers for several weeks to acclimate the shaggy stars to their costumes and ensure production proceeded apace.

"One fun fact we learned: Sheep like to stay together," says Cappelli. "This made it challenging to film them solo but allowed us to create an amazing chase scene between the sheep-lion and sheep-hirola. One sheep sprinted to catch up with her friend, and the result was a perfectly anti-climactic 'hunt' through the tall grass."

San Diego Zoo | Lion

Like a lamb to the slaughter, right? But don't worry, no disguised animals were harmed in the making-of.

"Painting a picture of a world without wildlife is pretty bleak. So many conservation campaigns rely on scare tactics, which people tend to tune out," says agency art director Thomas Gledhill. "We wanted to represent what's at stake without resorting to doom and gloom."

"There's a lot of blame and shame being thrown around, and a lot of it is deserved," he says. "But we wanted our campaign to inspire people to participate in fixing the problem. To do that, they need to feel hopeful and empowered. So, we tried to balance the severity of the subject matter with a little bit of humor. The end product is ideally something people will want to watch again and again and share."

Meanwhile, in radio spots, sheep ruin a perfectly good novelty song:

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance | The Wrong Song

The work encourages viewers to join the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance or visit the venue and its Safari Park.


SDZWA // Brand Relaunch // Production Credits

CEO: Paul Baribault
COO: Shawn Dixon
CMO: David Miller
Marketing Director: Debra Erickson
Associate Director, Marketing: Damien Lasater
Video Production / Post-Production Supervisor: Dustin Trayer

Chief Creative Officer: Margaret Johnson
Creative Director: Caroline Cappelli
Creative Director: Ryan Tovani
Art Director: Thomas Gledhill
Copywriter: Lennie Galloway

Account Director: Cassi Norman
Account Manager: Casey O'Brien
Account Manager: Nikki Hendriks
Assistant Account Manager: Elizabeth Markovic

Co-Director of Production: Leila Gage and Margaret Brett-Kearns
Senior Broadcast Producer: Alexei van Mourik

Business Affairs
Director of Business Affairs: Judy Ybarra
Senior Business Affairs Manager: Anna Lorrie Diokno

Production Company
Company Name: GS&P Films
Director: Michael Miller
Director of Photography: Ernie Kovacs
Photographer: Quinn Gravier
Executive Producer: Danielle Riccardi
Line Producer: Genevieve McCarty

Company Name:  Elevel
Director of Post Production:  Michael Damiani
Editor:  Graham Wilcox
Assistant Editor: Liz Norris
Sound Design: Nic Dematteo

Company Name: Lime Studios
Audio Mixer: Joel Waters
Audio Assistant: Collin Thomas
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan

Company Name: The Mill
Colourist: Fergus McCall

Company Name: The Mill
Executive Producer: Hillary Thomas
Senior Producer: Alex Bader
Production Coordinator: Tarik Thompson
Creative Director: John Leonti
2D Lead Artist: Gareth Parr
2D Artist: Yukiko Ishiwata,  Roxy Zuckerman, Brad Scott, Toby Brockhurst, Dilipan J, Arunraj, T Asaithambi, Tarun Kemtur
3D Artist: Michael Lori
Matte Painting: Itai Muller

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