Fly Buys gives the gift of free parking—UPDATED

There aren’t many things more tedious than trying to find a park around Lambton Quay, Wellington, even on a good day. But if there is one thing that can quell how harrowing it is driving around in circles just to be pipped at every post by aggressive drivers with sharp parallel parking skills, it’s free parking.

Fly Buys brought the joy of free parking to Wellington this Monday and Tuesday via an experiential campaign run in Wellington’s Featherston Street.

With free car washes on offer, helpful promo staff holding up ‘Free Parking’ lollipops, and giveaways, the company took over all on the parks on Featherston Street in the CBD. The big drawcard: Fly Buys set up the meters so members could swipe their cards for two hours in lieu of payment. 

Fly Buys was looking for a way to surprise its customers and make their days, Fly Buys spokesperson Vicki Connor says.

She says her first brainstorm with Touchcast referenced those times when you park, the person before you still has time on their ticket, and they pass it on to you (Touchcast did the creative and design, led technical development of the campaign, including integrating the use of Fly Buys cards with the parking machines, as well as signage. Clemenger BBDO did production and printing). 

“It’s not a lot of money but it is a nice little gesture and we thought it was something we could do – it’s just a nice thing if you get something like that for free,” she says.

Touchcast managing director Andrew Hawley remembers back to the start of the project nearly two years ago: “Touchcast saw an opportunity in tweaking the everyday activities of Fly Buys members, injecting a little bit of good into the most mundane activities. This is where the Fly Buys parking idea began; with the insight that parking can be painful, and it’s something everyone does a lot of. So what could Fly Buys do to make it better and bring a smile to their members?” 

The idea it proposed was to enable/programme the machines to accept a Fly Buys card, and provide the perfect surprise to Fly Buys members with free parking. At that time Chris Lamers (then head of marketing at Fly Buys) embraced the idea, and Touchcast began creative development, technical scoping and prototyping. 

“After a good deal of stakeholder engagement between numerous parties, and a lot of prototyping, it’s great for our team to finally see the execution come to life; the ultimate fusion between digital and physical worlds to create a truly compelling brand experience.” 

He says the project required a significant effort in technical research and development, and stakeholder engagement with council, on behalf of Fly Buys. To bring the idea to life, Touchcast worked closely with ITS integrating the use of the Fly Buys card with the machine and developing the proof of concept/prototype machine (of both a software rewrite, interface messaging and machine graphics) for approval with Wellington City. 

Over the two days they gave away 106,890 minutes (1,781 hours) of free parking to Wellington drivers.

Wellingtonian Hamish Steele was in town on Tuesday to run errands on his lunch break, and says while he didn’t have a Fly Buys card he was offered one on the spot.

“I only used an hour – you can save the other hour for another time,” he says.

For Steele, he was happy to get two freebies out of the situation.

“I got free parking and I got a Fly Buys card. I haven’t used the Fly Buys card again yet, but it’s a possibility,” he says.

The promotion was all about brand awareness and encouraging people to shop with any of Fly Buys’ 50 or so partners in the lead up to Christmas, as well as using their points to cash in on Fly Buys rewards.

“It’s such a high traffic area at any time of year – you’ve the combination of office workers down there and also people are coming in to do their shopping….We had 1100 people take advantage of the parking and then another 3000 people coming down swiping [for prizes],” Connor says.

The promotion also offered free car washes to lucky unsuspecting Wellingtonians. They could leave their car in the hands of five capable car-washers hired from Les Mills’ gym, and come back to find it spotless.

“It’s been really successful at getting the brand out there in the middle of Wellington at a really key time of year,” Connor says.

The planning involved meant the cooperation of the local council was paramount. Connor credits Wellington City Council with allowing them to start the experiential campaign in the capital.

“We had to find a way to get the parking meters to accept the Fly Buys cards and we needed a traffic management plan with the council, so Wellington City Council made it really easy for us to make it happen,” Connor says.

Fly Buys will be doing a full evaluation of the campaign to see how it affected long-term engagement with the brand. 

The brand will be able to compare before and after Fly Buys card swipe statistics of those who engaged with the promotion.

While Connor says sentiment towards the brand is harder to gauge, she says it will be very interesting to see if people use their Fly Buys card more after engaging with the Free Parking promotion.

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