The Lion's Share co-founder calls on marketers to get behind biodiversity

Global initiative looks to fund biodiversity and animal welfare by encouraging brands to donate a percentage of advertising spend when they use animals in creative

The Lion’s Share has made its official debut in Australia and is calling on local brands to get behind its vision to support animal welfare and biodiversity through their advertising work.

The Lion’s Share is an initiative from film director, Christopher Nelius and Finch production company founder, Rob Galluzzo, with an ambition to encourage marketers to be proactively involved in saving global biodiversity by donating 0.5 per cent of media spend every time an animal is featured in their advertisements.

According to figures cited by the fund, about 20 per cent of the more than $500 billion spent on advertising in 2019 featured animals in its creative.

First unveiled at the Cannes Festival in 2018, the fund has been co-founded and fully supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), who will manage the fund and conservation impact through its network of NGOs, civil society and governments on the ground worldwide.

Other founding partners include Mars Incorporated, creative partner, Clemenger BBDO and Nielsen. Globally, the fund has recruited 35 backers to date including JC Decaux, Gucci, Lacoste, Cartier and The Economist. Its first Australian brand partner is NRMA.

UNDP’s administrator, Achim Steiner, is the head of the Lion’s Share executive board and Sir David Attenborough is a special ambassador. The fund has also brought on Australian cricketing legend, Shane Warne, as a local champion.  

Speaking at a Sydney event this week to promote the The Lion’s Share, Nelius said the idea came one day when he saw a recurring Optus TV commercial featuring CGI rendered family of cheetahs.  

“The advertisement was selling phone data, and I realised cheetahs have nothing to do with phone data. It got me thinking,” he said. “Animals are a fantastic way to advertise and to communicate and get people to buy things. They can be lovingly portrayed, make you feel warm and fuzzy, like everything is alright in the world, make you laugh, cry, symbolise luxury, feel like you have a wild spirit and be courageous, emphasise innocence and entice us to visit places. They’re an amazingly effective, tried-and-true way of selling more products and generating profits.  

“Yet today in the real world, animals are under more stress and greater threat than at any other time in history.”  

For example, 100 years ago, there were 100,000 tigers in the world. Today that figure sits under 4000. In all, humanity has wiped out 60 per cent of animal populations since 1970.  

“I make ads and know what goes into making them. If we want to use a celebrity to create a commercial, we’d never dream of doing it without paying them. Or if we wanted to use a cool piece of music, we wouldn’t dream of using it without permission or paying for it. Yet here we are using animals in this way – a wonderful positive way – but we’re not giving anything back,” Nelius continued.  

“We built The Lion’s Share to empower brands to come together and change the way we do marketing. Just a tiny bit – 0.5 per cent – so brands can contribute a small amount when using an image of an animal in an ad.”  

Nelius stressed there’s no intention to stop marketers using animals in advertising. “We don’t want to stymie that creative spirit. But now the marketing world can do it more responsibly and in a sustainable way,” he said.   

Nelius said there’s both a scientific and moral answer to why we should save biodiversity.

“But for me personally, the reason we need to act now and fast is this: T is for Tiger. Animals are a part of us – they’re so deeply ingrained in who we are, we’re use them to communicate to our children how the world works,” he said.  

“We’re using animals to teach our children the most elemental things about life. If we don’t save them, we’re damaging a part of ourselves. What are we leaving our children if the idea of a tiger only exists in an ad or a book, and not in real life?”  

So far, The Lion’s Share has used funds generated to address rainforest rehabilitation in the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, save jaguar habitats in South America, and provide emergency grants to protect Australian wildlife hit by the recent devastating bushfires. It’s also recently worked on a Covid-relief program for communities affected by the pandemic.  

During the Sydney launch event, Nelius said Nielsen figures showed the advertising spend of brand executives in the room alone was worth $18 million. This could fuel more than 400 organisations in 77 countries, he said. The Lion’s Share’s ambition is to raise $100 million per annum globally to support animal and biodiversity protection.  

“We’re talking about changing the way we do marketing to make it more sustainable so our biodiversity exists beyond our lifetimes,” Nelius added.  

Speaking on its involvement in The Lion’s Fund, UNDP consultant, Andrea Egan, pointed out the relationship between human beings and nature is unsustainable.  

“At UNDP, we are passionate about transformational change. We are also passionate about private sector collaboration. The Lion’s Share represents the best of how this can take shape and the potential value we can realise if we all work together,” Egan told attendees. “It’s simple, vital and effective.  

“We recognise the potential to change business as usual and catalyse a major global movement for brands and consumers and realise major gains in wildlife gains and animal welfare. The Lion’s Share presents a key opportunity for the private sector to join forces and lead a global movement to save nature, amplifying and upscaling local efforts.”  

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