Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Behind the Work: Saying ‘Yes’ to Saving Australian Gliders

Advertising Agency
Sydney, Australia
Mel Hopkins, VP of marketing at Optus tells LBB’s Zoe Antonov why these flying marsupials need the public’s help more than ever this holiday season

Saying ‘yes’ is something we’ve all missed in recent days, so Optus has decided to remind Australians that good things can actually come out of it. In their holiday season campaign this year, they tell us the story of an Australian glider - a lesser-known marsupial - risking life and tail to surprise its partner for Christmas. And the surprise is nothing short of impressive – inspired by the family living nearby, the glider has constructed a pair of bassinets in the ultimate gesture to start a little glider family together! 

The campaign is a nod to the declining populations of Sugar, Krefft’s and Savanna Gliders and a bid to raise much needed funds for their salvation. Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and Optus partnered to remind the public of the necessity for safe refuges for the gliders, as well as their overall threatened existence. As opposed to the famous wombats, koalas and quokkas, gliders aren’t one of the most famous species amongst Aussies, so the film aims to shuffle their way into the public’s attention and hopefully contribute to fire management, as well as feral animal control – the key issues that have contributed to the glider population’s decline by 35% in the last 30 years. 

This is not the first year Optus has dabbled into social campaigning – their platform ‘It Starts With Yes’ debuted last year with their first iteration, partnering with The Leukemia Foundation to share the inspiring real-life story of Kara and Nikita. 

Mel Hopkins, Optus’ vice president of marketing spoke to LBB’s Zoe Antonov about why it’s important to raise awareness on this issue, the evolution of the glider’s character and what a campaign needs to provoke real change. 

LBB> How did you come up with the idea for this campaign? What was the message you were aiming to convey to audiences with this campaign?

Mel> Our brand truth is simple – great things in life can happen by having the positivity and optimism to say yes. This is the fourth film in our platform. We are bringing a new optimistic story to Australians this festive season – following an Australian glider, risking life and tail, for an ambitious surprise for its partner for Christmas.

LBB> Why did you choose the Australian glider as a main character of the campaign and what is the significance behind it?

Mel> Many people don’t know what a glider is. Most Australians know about wombats, koalas, and quokkas, but there was little knowledge of these small flying marsupials. We saw it as an opportunity to teach Australia about the incredible diversity our country holds. Optus believes in the great things that can start from a single ‘yes’. With so few gliders left in the wild, we are using our platform and advertising as an opportunity to start a conversation, to raise awareness and funds to save an adorable, little-known species by getting Australians to fall in love with the glider and then help them protect it. 

LBB> The Australian glider as the main character is so memorable and its story is definitely heart-warming! Talk me through the animation process and the design of the characters. What were the most challenging moments during the production of the campaign? What about the most fun?

Mel> Creating work like this is never easy – even with incredible partners like Special Group New Zealand and Flux Animations. But the biggest challenge with this campaign was probably that our protagonist wasn’t always planned as being a Sugar Glider. Originally, at concept stage, he was a native Australian mouse! But as large parts of regional Australia started to experience the dreadful impacts of the mouse plague; out of respect we felt we needed to shift. That led to a journey on what was the right creature and in fact strengthened the campaign by selecting an engaged species. 

Overall, after the year we’ve all experienced, we really wanted to share some fun, optimism, and a little bit of magic to hopefully give Australians something to smile about. We’re on a mission to become a loved brand, and making work that people love rather than just like is a big part of that. We hope that people love it as much as we do.

LBB> How long did the campaign production take from beginning to end?

Mel> The idea was signed off in a moment – the product with the animation approximately four months

LBB> What do you hope the outcome of the campaign to be?

Mel> Obviously moving the dial of brand consideration and ensuring that Optus is top on the list as a gifting destination, but more so driving brand love, pride and becoming even more of the part of the fabric of Australia is key. This is a celebration! We did a pre-test, and the results knocked our socks off – so we are keen to see this one in the wild and if it lives up to the expectations.

LBB> This campaign is part of the ‘It Starts with Yes’ platform debuted by Optus last year. Tell me more about it and its significance. 

Mel> This is the third instalment in our new brand platform ‘It Starts with Yes’ and we want to play a part in affecting real change for the future of Australia, as we continue our journey to becoming Australia’s most loved everyday brand with lasting customer relationships.  We know great things can happen by having positivity and optimism to say yes and felt that given the mood of the nation, a true heart-warming articulation of this would resonate.

LBB> Any final thoughts?

Mel> Optus wants to play a part in affecting real change for the future of Australia, as we continue our journey to becoming Australia’s most loved everyday brand with lasting customer relationships.  We’ve been part of Australia’s social fabric for 30 years, so it was important that a native species was front and centre of our campaign.  

With populations of Sugar Gliders, Krefft’s Glider and Savanna Glider declining, Optus is using the festive season to raise much needed funds for their cause.  Threatened by bushfires, and with limited public awareness of their plight, Optus has partnered with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) to raise in excess of $50,000.
The contribution will help the AWC deliver fire management across 100,000 hectares of natural habitat; remove feral herbivores to help create safe refuges for the gliders; and support the AWC’s scientific monitoring programme to ensure key threats to their survival are controlled.

I believe that brands should build consistency and ensure if they are giving back it links back to a clear campaign or business strategy. Our Donate Your Data™ program has seen our customers donate more than 30M GB of data for people in need. There was absolutely no pressure to partner with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy on this campaign, we did it because as we got to appreciate the challenge for this endangered animal, we knew we could use our platform to raise awareness and much-needed funds.  But for us this was small act of generosity for a long term and incredibly valued partner of Optus’. But what we hope is that it will inspire all Australians to act and maybe support the AWC and many other fabulous Not for Profits, to protect our unique flora and fauna.

Members of the public can support native gliders this Christmas by donating to Australian Wildlife.

More News from Special Sydney
Awards and Events
Cannes Lions 2024: AUNZ Winners
Work from Special Sydney
Tastes Ok
Slow Good Lift
Gippsland Dairy