– 24 October 2012

Lawrence Anthony was a remarkable human being. They called him the ‘elephant whisperer’ but he was much, much more than that. Born in Johannesburg in the 1950’s and raised in Zimbabwe, Anthony dedicated his life to conservation and created the ‘Earth Organisation’, a non-profit that aims to using education and action to reverse the ravaging effects mankind is having on the environment.

Anthony was bold and fearless. In 2003 after Iraq was bombed by US lead coalition forces, he heard about a pack of starving lions that would have surely died without intervention. Anthony flew in to the area and went to the Baghdad zoo to make the rescue happen. Another time he’d meet and negotiate with members of Joseph Kony’s feared Lord’s Resistance Army in an attempt to save the last of the Northern White Rhinoceros.

The owner and head of conservation at KwaZulu-Natal’s Thula Thula Game reserve, Anthony wrote many bestsellers about his life with elephants and his involvement in conservation. These include The Elephant Whisperer: Learning About Life, Loyalty and Freedom From a Remarkable Herd of Elephants, which is a back story to one of the best commercials I’ve seen in recent times. I am writing of course about FoxP2’s incredible “Trust is earned” television commercial which was directed by Robin Goode of Giant Films, for Coronation.

Affectionately known as The Elephant Whisperer because of his love of, and dedication to, the rehabilitation of African Elephants, Anthony (heart achingly) died of a heart attack before shooting on the commercial began.

The Elephant Whisperer

The commercial begins with Anthony’s French-born wife, Françoise, telling the story of how her husband was asked to take on a herd of rogue elephants in 1999. If he didn’t do this the elephants would have been killed.

“It was their last chance of survival; and so against all odds, he put his life at risk to build a relationship with the elephants, gaining the acceptance and trust of the matriarch Nana and, through her, the rest of the herd,” reads the Coronation website – which features the ads story, and an extended version of the commercial with various interviews.

“The story, and the commercial, documents how given time, dedication, perseverance and communication, Lawrence managed to rehabilitate the elephants and ensure their safety and longevity,” it continues. This ad serves as the perfect metaphor for showing how trust is earned over time – the perfect analogy for a financial sector where so much trust has been eroded.
But then Coronation has always been seriously intelligent when it comes to advertising. The Cape Town based fund managers first ‘trust’ ad also told a true story. That time the tale was about Christian the lion cub which was adopted and raised after being seen in a London store by two friends. Often when you start a series like this, it can be difficult to maintain the original momentum.

The elephant whisperer advert is chilling in its stark beauty and Françoise’s voice which says: “Half of the herd was killed before they came to us. They were dangerous because they feared man. Others wanted to kill them, but my husband wanted to save them.” With the perfect marriage of music, brilliant scripting, excellent casting and superlative camera work, Goode has created a commercial that runs like a two and a half minute, award-winning film.

It is memorable, evokes emotion, stirs ones curiosity and entertains. No matter how many times I see this ad, I feel such warmth and empathy because it’s a true story based on the life of a man that can only be called a hero.

This is advertising that remembers what the best commercials are about, and Coronation is well positioned because of it.