Aquarium asks people to test the waters

Lord knows, if they had virtual marine life on display, there probably wouldn't be anything to fret about....

Lord knows, if they had virtual marine life on display, there probably wouldn’t be anything to fret about.

It’s not easy marketing an institution like the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre anymore. Competition for the consumer’s leisure-time spending is stiffer than ever – and much of it now comes from flashy entertainment palaces like Playdium that boast the latest high-tech delights.

And what does the aquarium have to offer? Fish. You try selling that to people nowadays.

All right, maybe that’s overstating the case just a tad. The 44-year-old Vancouver Aquarium, located in Stanley Park, remains one of the city’s leading entertainment attractions, drawing nearly a million visitors a year.

Still, it has become increasingly clear that if this non-profit facility wants to stay on the consumer’s shortlist of places to go and things to see, then it’s going to have to cast its marketing net a little more aggressively. Which is the main reason the aquarium signed powerhouse Vancouver shop Palmer Jarvis DDB as its agency of record in March.

"The aquarium has realized that, like any other attraction, it has to invest in marketing itself," says Lynne DeCew, the institution’s newly appointed vice-president, marketing and sales. "You can’t just assume that if you build it they will come."

Managing the aquarium’s relationship with its new agency should prove relatively easy for DeCew. Before joining the institution, she actually worked at PJDDB as vice-president, account director and managing director of the agency’s youth marketing division, KidThink.

One of her first responsibilities, in this new position, will be to oversee development of a brand awareness campaign for the aquarium – an effort that will launch in mid-June.

The challenge, DeCew says, will be crafting an approach that convinces both of the audiences that the institution must court: Vancouver residents and visitors from out of town.

To draw tourists, she says, the campaign simply has to let them know that the aquarium is a can’t-miss experience. Winning over locals, however, is trickier. Just about everybody in the city has been to the aquarium at some point in their lives. So the advertising must persuade them that the institution always has something new to offer.

Building and maintaining respect in the local community will be another of DeCew’s priorities. Support for the aquarium has been strained in recent years by protests over the display of live killer whales. At the end of April, the institution announced that it would end the practice, moving Bjossa, B.C.’s last killer whale in captivity, to a Sea World park in the U.S.

While the creative strategy for the branding effort has yet to be determined, consumers got a glimpse in March of the offbeat sensibility that PJDDB will likely bring to the assignment, when the aquarium launched a campaign in print, radio and transit to promote a display of rare golden crocodiles.

One ad, for example, boasts the headline "It’s a fallacy they’re man-eaters. They like women and children, too." Another features a photo of a mother, her young son and an infant standing at the crocodile enclosure. They are labeled, respectively, "Entrée," "Hors d’oeuvre" and "Light snack."

Other attractions, it’s true, have more of the electronic bells and whistles that mesmerize audiences these days. But DeCew says she believes the Vancouver Aquarium still delivers top value for the entertainment dollar.

"It’s not the same as going to play virtual basketball," she says. "You get to experience the real thing."

Also in this report:

- Tree Brewing: From small acorns, big oaks: Innovative thinking overcomes tiny budget, as beer maker plots to dominate B.C. microbrewery business p.23

- Pharmasave carves its niche: B.C.-based drugstore chain finds itself facing stiff competition from big-box retailers and major supermarkets p.25

- TransLink touts broadened mandate: Vancouver transit authority lets consumers know it’s more than just "the old bus company" p.27

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.