Exploring the effective use of celebrities in wildlife demand reduction; changing perceptions of pangolins in Vietnam

ResearcherAlegria Olmedo

Period: 2018/2021

This research is linked to a wider project 'The Oxford Martin Programme on the Illegal Wildlife Trade' : Read more 

Funder: National Geographic Society


In the last two decades, illegal trade in pangolins has increased to such an extent, that pangolins are now considered the world’s most trafficked wild mammals. Vietnam and China have been identified as the key consumer countries driving this international trade for pangolins and their derivatives from both Asian and African countries. It is essential to address the consumption fuelling the poaching and trading of pangolins; several interventions have already been launched to achieve this.

The use of celebrities in conservation campaigns has become increasingly more prevalent. Such has been the case with interventions that target the use and consumption of illegal wildlife products where celebrities are used to influence the public, increase their awareness, change their attitude or behaviour. However, the evidence of effectiveness of celebrity messaging in reducing purchases of illegal wildlife has not been assessed.


DPhil Overview:

This research focuses on providing an evidence-base on how to effectively use celebrities in campaigns that aim to reduce demand of illegal wildlife products; looking into the specific example of pangolin product use in Vietnam.

A celebrity-based demand reduction campaign will be tested in Vietnam and its impact on the demand of pangolin products will be measured. Lessons will be drawn from the findings on the role that celebrity endorsement can play in demand reduction initiatives and in the conservation field more broadly.


Outline of research


  1. Assess the extent to which celebrities have been used in conservation campaigns in Asia and what role their involvement has played in various interventions.
  2. Understand use of pangolin products in Vietnam, for food, medicine and other purposes, and the demographic profiles, preferences and motivations of pangolin consumers.
  3. Develop, implement and monitor an intervention that uses celebrity endorsement to reduce consumption of pangolin products in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.


Summary of planned activities: 

Year 1

  • Carryout a systematic review of the evidence of celebrity endorsement in Asian cultures. This will include looking into environmental and conservation campaigns elsewhere to understand the role and purpose of celebrity endorsement, and any evidence of their effectiveness.
  • Conduct baseline research on pangolin consumption in Vietnam – looking at the demographic profiles, characteristics and motivations of pangolin product consumers.

Year 2

  • Market test for celebrity endorsement effectiveness to inform the design of an intervention based on celebrity messaging to understand how different types of celebrity messaging might be received by consumers in Vietnam.
  • Implement intervention in urban centre in Vietnam. Monitor throughout implementation phase.

Year 3

  • Evaluate intervention impacts.
  • Bringing together evidence of the case study and from other campaigns that have used celebrity endorsement elsewhere, produce an assessment of the factors affecting effectiveness of celebrity endorsement in conservation and share experiences of best practice and recommendations for future celebrity use.


Project outputs:

  • Guidance for conservation practitioners on assessing the factors affecting the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements in conservation, and for future use of celebrities in wildlife trade and demand reduction campaigns.
  • Three or four research papers in high-impact journals on the role of celebrities in conservation and the effectiveness of celebrities in demand reduction campaigns.