Growing up in Norristown, PA, there is one school trip every elementary school kid goes on: the Elmwood Park Zoo. I can still remember our class’s walk down to the zoo that day. The zoo itself was just big enough for you to wander around in, but not so big you’d get lost.
It was, and still is, kind of a big deal.
Your average run of the mill town doesn’t have a zoo. And we did.
As I grew up, the animals started to look less impressive and the zoo became more of an afterthought. Something you’d drive by and remember.
Fast forward a few decades and new leadership started to put the zoo back on the map. It started popping up in unexpected places. Whether it was learning that the actual eagle flying into the Philadelphia Eagles stadium as part of the national anthem was an Elmwood Park Zoo eagle, or how a coworker had quirky weekend plans to go to some zoo where you can feed a real life giraffe – or a relative who was going zip lining across some buffalo – the answer to all those random stories kept being the Elmwood Park Zoo.
And then, my hometown zoo came up in an even more unexpected way when they crossed our desks as a potential client.
When the team at the Elmwood Park Zoo reached out with a need to generate awareness for a one-of-a-kind experience, on a tight turnaround, and ambitious attendance goals to go along with it, we jumped in to figure out how we could help out with the time and the resources that we did have.
Despite the quick turn, this project serves as a great case study to prove out what we mean as an agency when we talk to prospective clients about our “strategy-first approach.” Because even though the job for the zoo was on a tight turnaround, we went about finding our answers by taking the time to first define the problem we were trying to solve.
Questions like, how do you tease something that isn’t there? In this case a very visual product – a holiday light show that would be getting set up over the weeks our production would need to take place.
What is the best way to get the word out to the right audiences? Who were those audiences and how would messaging reflect that to connect quickly and pull more folks in?
And then, once we created some awareness, how could we help sustain attention as the event ran through the end of the year?
Our solution was to tease what wasn’t there with a short animated video that played up the coolest aspects of the event – that it would be a holiday light show in a zoo. Hinging off that combination, we went about crafting an animated short to run on social.
Then, we concepted and storyboarded a one-shot teaser that focused on all the setup and pageantry around the event rather than the (yet to be built) light show itself – from a holiday donkey being positioned, to the Zoo’s mascot “Bucky” helping out, to gas lit heaters getting warmed up, to carolers caroling, decorators decorating, and Santa showing up to take his place for photos. (We even figured out how to get an owl to act.)
Versions of our spot ran on social and broadcast, helping to compliment our initial teaser.
Then, we cast a collection of characters representing key groups the zoo attracts. Families with kids of different ages, a young couple on a date for a night out to shoot on the sold-out opening night.
Shooting our various groups allowed us to craft a longer 30-second broadcast spot that ran on various media outlets for the month of December along with three shorter social edits that split out each of our vignetted stories into their own edits.
The variety gave the zoo a collection of content to rotate on social, TV, and in unique placements such as video kiosks at the King of Prussia mall throughout the holiday shopping season.
All in all, our campaign for the Elmwood Park Zoo helped make its inaugural running of the light show a shining success. Looking ahead into 2019, we look forward to working on more projects to help put this special local zoo on the map.
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