Of the series of adverts created for the pilot campaign one in particular has generated more comment than all the others put together:
In this advert we use the term “to medicate” and people feel that this may give the use of rhino horn legitimacy. As more campaigns are developed to target the consumers of a range of illegal or endangered wildlife product, we thought people may be interested in the psychology behind creating the advert in the way we have.
We do want to capture the attention of users who do consider rhino horn a medication/supplement; and to get the attention of these users we have been advised not to directly challenge a cultural belief. So if one person’s ‘cultural belief’ is another person’s ‘myth’, namely ‘rhino horn’s link to any medical value’ how do you debunk a myth?
A recent article in The Conversation by John Cook of the University of Queensland summaries this well. When you look at psychological research into misinformation, you don’t have to avoid mentioning the myth altogether. You have to activate it in people’s minds before they can label it as wrong or unhelpful.
Secondly, you need to replace the myth with an alternate narrative. This is usually an explanation of why the myth is wrong or how it came about. We have chosen not to use the right/wrong argument. People have for years said that there is no medical evidence that rhino horn is useful in the treatment of illness and stated that the ‘myth’ is wrong. This argument hasn’t worked to date. To wait for definitive evidence, from medical research conducted in a way that the users of rhino horn would consider it legitimate, stating that there is absolutely no medical evidence that rhino horn is useful in dealing with illness, would take years. The wild rhino population is likely to be long gone before the results of such research being universally accepted.
So we have chosen to run this first advert in parallel with an ad that creates a new story about rhino horn, a new ‘myth’ (with a powerful emotion and a grain of truth) if you like:
This is the reason we have taken this approach to use the term “to medicate” in one of our adverts.