DRTV Helps Bird Exhibit Take Flight

A Los Angeles-area aquarium and animal park has broadened its marketing reach with the use of DRTV spots to promote a new exhibit featuring colorful Australian birds known as lorikeets.

The Aquarium of the Pacific began running its 30-second spot on area networks Oct. 29.

The ad, which will run through the end of the year, promotes the new Lorikeet Forest exhibit and offers free admission for children until Nov. 30.

The format enabled the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA, to expand its advertising from just spots on a Los Angeles-area public television station to ad runs on the major networks. These include the local ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX affiliates as well as the WB affiliate and an independent station.

The aquarium could do this, said Cecile Fisher, public relations director for the aquarium, because the DRTV spots generate sales on their own. The aquarium can track results and determine which channels and time slots generate the most success.

“We're a nonprofit with a very limited marketing budget,” Fisher said. “Given the fact that we're in one of the most expensive media markets in the United States, it's hard to get that kind of outreach.”

The spot provides a toll-free number, 1-888-525-4SEA, viewers can call to reserve tickets. The vanity number will become part of the aquarium's brand, said Bob Yallen, president of Inter/Media, Encino, CA, the aquarium's advertising agency.

“The consumer remembers that easily,” he said. “They remember they saw the ad and can easily access the number.”

The downside of this strategy is that the usual method of tracking results — by advertising different phone numbers so responses to different time slots and stations can be recorded — is unavailable. However, Inter/Media can employ analytical software to track response even though only a single inbound number is used, Yallen said.

Though full details of the campaign are unavailable, the aquarium's attendance has risen 2 percent compared with this time last year. Though that growth is not large, it is significant given that most theme and entertainment parks have seen attendance plummet because of poor economic conditions, Fisher said.

“We're definitely getting phone calls when the commercials run,” Fisher said. “We're seeing positive attendance as a result.”

The DRTV ads are aimed at women ages 25-54 who have children in their households. The colorful spots feature a khaki-clad man with a salt-and-pepper beard leading a young girl through a jungle into the aquarium. The character, dubbed “Pacific Pete,” will be featured in future aquarium marketing efforts with the aim of being established as part of the aquarium's brand, Fisher said.

The spot focuses on the main attraction of the lorikeet exhibit, which is the opportunity for visitors to touch and interact with the birds. Customer surveys have shown that visitors want to touch the animals, so this facet was played up heavily in the ads, Fisher said.

“You're not just sitting and looking at animals behind glass,” Fisher said. “The lorikeets land all over you.”

The same theme will appear in marketing efforts for the aquarium's upcoming Shark Lagoon exhibit, which will open next summer. The shark exhibit also will let visitors touch the fish, albeit only docile, non-dangerous shark species.

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