Rainger & Rolfe turns the furry tenants at Auckland Zoo into online brand ambassadors

Over the last few months, Auckland Zoo has been putting its colourful and varied range of tenants to work by having them feature in a series of YouTube videos designed to draw attention to the attraction in the Super City.

Rainger & Rolfe, the agency behind the on-going digital campaign, has held the Auckland Zoo account since 2011 (the account was originally held by Rolfe Limited and then moved across after the merger with Rainger Connect). And over the last three years, the agency has managed to drive some impressive results for the organisation, with Nielsen’s statistics showing an increase in visitors from 123,000 in 2012 to 142,000 last year.   

Following on from these strong results, the agency now aims to attract even higher numbers by taking a more digital approach to its campaign work. 

“[We’re] currently working with the team at Auckland Zoo to evolve the Zoo Alive magazine to bring that content to more kiwis (and a global audience) in more bite-sized chunks,” says senior account director Alina Godfrey.

“We’re looking at the need to do this as part of a transition to a more digital approach, but also as a complement to our traditional efforts – and in truth there is a lot of parallels between the two disciplines so everything we’ve learnt offline is now helping our online efforts.”

This move comes at a time when a significant number of brands are starting to turn their attention away from traditional forms of advertising in favour of publishing content that—hopefully—engages with potential consumers.

“Content and publishing has certainly gone well beyond the tipping point now and people want their news, their way, in their time—so the question really has become about finding ways to do that, not relying on a bound publication,” says Godfrey. 

She says that publishing content via YouTube means that Rainger and Rolfe can send the zoo’s message out to a broader audience than would be possible if the agency relied only on a “bound publication”.

While Godfrey admits there are “cost benefits” involved in the decision to adopt a more digitally centred marketing approach, she says this isn’t the only reason why Rainger & Rolfe is doing it.

“We can be more topical, reactive, crowd source more elements and modify our stories to match what people are reading. And as a zoo we’ve got some of the most compelling, cause-worthy (and just plain cute) content – so unlike many brands, we think we’ve got things worth talking about.”

And she says that the level of engagement being registered on the online platforms shows that the approach is working.

“Our highest Facebook engagement to date is 25,000 actions and a click-through rate [CTR] as high as 12 percent with minimal spend. On YouTube, the average CTR from a video view is around 3.5 percent, which usually includes some sort of offer. Without any offer, ours is sitting at five percent and of the people who watch our video without skipping we have a 25 percent CTR.”

But clicks, shares, comments and likes aren’t quantifiable in monetary terms, and this problem is exacerbated because the rules of the online marketing game are always changing.

“I don’t think anyone knows the real value of a ‘like’, says Godfrey. “And the monetization of Facebook and other social channels, combined with some algorithm changes means it’s already time to reassess our orientation to trying to value likes.”

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that zoo animals have been put to work in the digital sphere. Last year, Hellocomputer & Draftfcb Johannesburg introduced the world to the first ‘tweeting honey badger’ for a cross-platform campaign for the Johannesburg Zoo.    

The campaign attracted so much attention that the narrator behind the ‘nastyass honey badger’ YouTube video even gave it an online response.

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