Belgium Gives Birth to an Elephant

Outdoor, Online and Text Messaging Combine for a Crowd at the Antwerp Zoo

Published on .

When the Antwerp Zoo wanted to leverage the pregnancy of one of its elephants to drive visitors, it decided to try to make everyone in Belgium feel as though 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.

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