ShowBusinessMan + Social Media Advertising

Johannesburg Zoo’s Tweeting Honey Badger A World First

Looking for an ingenious way to build their online presence, the Johannesburg Zoo has decided to hand over all their Social Media management to ‘someone’ who knows the zoo inside out. BG the Badger! The Johannesburg Zoo’s much-loved resident honey badger and the official JHB Zoo mascot.
How is this even possible? Well, it’s largely due to BG’s new high-tech animal enclosure, cleverly devised by award-winning digital agency Hellocomputer, of the Draftfcb group. Creatives on the job include Candice Hellens (copywriter), Eras Gous (art-director) Moira-Gene Sephton Gous (art-director) and Rory MacRobert (copywriter), and the technology was implemented by tech wizard Tom van den Bon (at BinarySpace) along with Johan Pieterse, Nathan O' Gates and Ben Fourie of Hellocomputer.
Selected because of his cheeky-yet-lovable personality, love of people and his very active nature, BG began tweeting on June 14 this year. You can follow him at @zootweetslive.
The Technology: BG’s high-tech badger enclosure is rigged with wireless infrared motion sensors, which are divided into six zones. The animal-friendly sensors talk to a server that holds a database of hundreds of pre-written BG tweets. As BG moves from zone to zone, the motion sensors pick up on his location and automatically trigger tweets from his Twitter account, in real-time. The built-from-scratch coding ensures that all the tweets are relevant to what BG is doing at that moment e.g. if BG is at the front section of his enclosure he will trigger people-related tweets, when he is near the sides he will trigger neighbour-related tweets and so on.
“The techno-wizards from Hellocomputer are thrilled by the project and the team at the JHB Zoo are amped to have turned BG into – in record time – what they believe is the world’s first LIVE tweeting zoo ‘spokesanimal’”, said Kerry Friend, executive creative director of Hellocomputer.
“The Joburg Zoo does a wonderful job connecting with animal fans using many different traditional media, but it has steered away from the digital realm until now. Having acknowledged the many benefits of engaging with its target base using social media, it wanted an especially appealing way of doing so.”
“Hellocomputer’s logic was that, since the thing that people really love about the Zoo is its animals, it makes sense for an animal to be their spokesperson”.
“The job has fallen on BG’s shoulders right now but there are plenty of interesting candidates, ones who are on the extinction list and who could become ‘spokesanimals’ for their species as well. Who knows what the future will bring,” she said.
“Critical to the zoo’s acceptance of the concept and the system is BG’s safety”, said Johannesburg Zoo’s Brand & Communications Manager, Letta Madlala.
“While we were immediately enchanted by Hellocomputer’s innovative proposal to turn one of our most social animals into a social media spokesperson, we stressed that we could not put BG at risk at all”.
“The system designed by Hellocomputer utilises wireless sensors, so there’s nothing for BG to chew on, choke on or entangle himself in. They are also small and unobtrusive, and have been attached at the highest points of the enclosure, while the base station and its solar power source, which are more difficult to ruggedise, have been placed outside the enclosure.
“The sensors are also enclosed in hard-to-penetrate Perspex so, if BG does manage to get his claws on one – and let’s face it, honey badgers are resourceful and very strong creatures – he will not be able to penetrate it in the short term and it can be retrieved by zoo staff”.
“While several of BG’s tweets will address his daily activities – such as his walks around the zoo (which he adorably takes on a lead), his mealtimes and playtimes, comments on his human visitors and animal neighbours and badger philosophies–he will obviously also be able to promote special events at the zoo and, when relevant, comment on current events”.

“We are thrilled with the results and look forward to many of our supporters and the public engaging with BG on a regular basis,” she said. “He’s a very friendly badger, we’re sure he’ll be very popular on twitter.”
While Hellocomputer has written several rules to govern BG’s tweets limiting the number of tweets a day and an hour or the number of tweets triggered from one station, its server will log BG’s exact movements as they trigger the sensors.
Additionally, all this valuable data will be retained and made available to the zoo should it have a need to research or contribute to research being done on badger habit studies and/or studies on animals in captivity.
“Not only does this system provide the Joburg Zoo with an exciting and totally apt way of communicating with its target audiences through social media, it has the potential to contribute to mankind’s understanding of animal behaviour and — by extrapolation — animal well-being in the future. We couldn’t be prouder,” concluded Kerry Friend.

advert, creative, Featured Ads, and more:

Johannesburg Zoo’s Tweeting Honey Badger A World First + Social Media Advertising