A (Bronx) Zoo Tale

New_york_times_logo_jpegOriginally posted Nov. 19, 2007
by Stuart Elliott, The New York Times

A colorful campaign aimed at parents and children is playing up the
“wild” in the premier attractions owned and operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Those attractions are the Bronx Zoo
and the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, Brooklyn. A new agency,
Deutsch, is encouraging potential visitors to “Go wild” in a campaign
with a budget estimated at $7 million — and, as the elephants at the
zoo might say, that’s hardly peanuts.

Zoo1_jpeg The campaign includes television and radio commercials; signs and
posters; print advertisements; trading cards bearing pictures of
animals, which are of course called “wild cards”; and a Web site where
computer users are invited to “build your wild self” and forward the images to friends.

The campaign began in the summer and has continued through the fall,
promoting special events like “Boo at the Zoo” and “A-scarium at the
Aquarium,” which celebrated Halloween.

The ads are currently
focused on the 11th annual Holiday Lights festivities at the zoo, which
started on Friday and continue through Jan. 6. The events include a
“Pajama Party,” planned for this weekend, and a look at holiday
celebrations around the world, scheduled for Dec. 17 through 23.

The campaign is indicative of the increasing attention being paid to
marketing by organizations and associations. Advertising is not just
for consumer product-makers anymore, to evoke an old slogan, as
everyone seeking the public’s attention realizes that the crowded
marketplace requires greater efforts to break through the clutter.

“The marketing world has shifted a lot,” says Jesse Ewing, vice
president for marketing at the conservation society, which has its
headquarters at the Bronx Zoo.

For many years, the zoo and the
aquarium “relied on out-of-home advertising,” she adds, for — you
should pardon the expression — the lion’s share of its outreach, with
about 85 percent of the marketing budget devoted to ads like posters in

Zoo2_jpeg Those ads are excellent for generating awareness of a
product or brand, Ms. Ewing says, “and we’ve had some great work in the
past” like the “Oh, baby” campaign featuring newborn animals, which
appeared primarily on subway posters.

But the society’s
attractions already “enjoy extraordinarily high awareness,” she adds,
so “our challenge is to make us No.1 in consideration — to come to the
zoo, to come to the aquarium, this week, this weekend, right now.”

The good news is that to meet such a daunting challenge, there are now
“a lot of tools in the marketing toolbox, more sophisticated ways, to
engage with potential visitors,” Ms. Ewing says.

“Deutsch really
came forward and defined for us what ‘integrated marketing’ is,” she
adds, by offering a wide variety of types of pitches “that went beyond
traditional advertising.”

Deutsch took over the society’s
account last January in the first change in agencies in a decade.
Y&R in New York, part of the Young & Rubicam Brands division of
the WPP Group, had previously handled the creative part of the account and another WPP agency, Mediaedge:cia, had handled the media part.

“Everybody’s passion is to help a good, local icon succeed and put
itself back on the map,” says Peter Nicholson, partner and chief
creative officer at the flagship New York office of Deutsch, part of
the Interpublic Group of Companies.

The goal is to get “more frequent repeat visitors,” says Mr. Nicholson,
who adds that he goes to the zoo a lot with his four children, ages 2,
3, 7 and 9.

“The biggest problem is that it’s a
one-or-two-times-a-year thing,” Mr. Nicholson says of zoogoers in
general, so an emphasis is being placed on “promotional events to drive
traffic,” like the Halloween weekends, and “incentives to come back.”

For instance, the “wild cards,” a series of collectible trading cards,
are given to visitors as they are leaving the zoo or the aquarium. On
the back of the cards are ads for future events and codes for discounts
for future admissions, which can be redeemed when buying tickets online
at Web sitesthat include bronxzoo.com. .

Children who are transformed into animals are the centerpiece of other
elements of the campaign. They are pictured in animated vignettes
created by a production company in Brooklyn, Dancing Diablo Studio,
that call to mind the illustrations found in children’s books.

For instance, in one TV commercial, a girl under a tree wraps herself
in a blanket she had been sitting on and turns into a butterfly. In
another spot, a boy becomes a wallaby. In a third commercial, a boy is
transformed into a sea lion.

“The advertising appeals to parents
and to kids by showing a more fantastic world, a children’s storybook
world,” Mr. Nicholson says.

That is particularly true of the “build your wild self” Web site, he adds, which “has taken off like gangbusters.”

Through Oct. 31, there were almost 50,000 visitors to the site, Deutsch
and Ms. Ewing report, and they were spending an average of 7 minutes
and 34 seconds during each visit.

The visitors came from 98
countries and territories, with the United States in the lead, followed
by Germany, Spain, Canada and Brazil. Other top places of origin for
visitors included Hungary and Macedonia.

According to Ms. Ewing,
about half the visitors to the zoo and the aquarium are from the New
York metropolitan area and the rest are “one-ses and two-ses” from
different states and countries, who “all add up over time.” (The
society, by agreement with the New York City government, also operates
three city zoos, in Central Park, Manhattan; Prospect Park, Brooklyn;
and Queens.)

The commercials are running on broadcast stations
and cable systems in metropolitan New York as well as on video displays
in taxi cabs and local supermarkets.

On TV, the spots are
appearing during “a lot of daytime and early morning” programming, Mr.
Nicholson says, to reach the women who often make recreational choices
for their families.

In print, the ads are appearing in The Daily
News and neighborhood newspapers. The radio commercials are being heard
on stations like WPLJ-FM and WHTZ-FM, also called Z100.

You know, “Z” as in “Zoo.”

No Responses to “A (Bronx) Zoo Tale”

  1. Visiting the Zoo is seen around the world as a “Child” thing. Adults may accompany children but the visit is meant as a treat for the kids.
    With species going extinct at an alarming rate, wildlife protection is possible only if the adults who are now in charge, do their bit.
    While the ad companies are doing a good job of attracting kids, can they do something to make “visiting the zoo” serious adult business too?

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