Vancouver Aquarium shows itself as a holiday destination

The aquarium takes a new approach to attracting families during what might otherwise be considered the off-season.


By Daniel Calabretta

If you visit the Vancouver Aquarium this holiday season, you’ll see things you wouldn’t witness any other time of year, like Santa Claus in black flippers swimming among fish and coral, or an electric eel-powered Christmas tree.

But for this year’s “Soak up the Season” holiday campaign – its first work with Vancouver creative agency Will – the aquarium was looking to refresh its winter marketing.

The annual holiday campaign at the Vancouver Aquarium – and by extension, Ocean Wise, the parent brand of the aquarium – has the goal of “attracting visitors over the holidays” and “sparking [a] connection with our oceans” and sea-life, as Patrick Brophy, director of marketing at Ocean Wise, recently stated in a press release.

“Essentially, we were looking to kind of re-invigorate and refresh our holiday offering, and the advertising that goes along with that,” Brophy tells strategy. “The marketing challenge we have is it’s a competitive time of year. There’s a lot of seasonal attractions and events going on for people’s families.”

Brophy acknowledges that an aquarium is not necessarily something people often associate with Christmas and the holidays. “That was kind of our challenge,” he says. “We feel as if we have a unique offering because of the core of our product, which is aquatic life, amazing animals, the oceans and water.”

Although the aquarium isn’t hosting any new features –Scuba Claus and the eel-powered tree were used last year – Brophy views “Soak Up The Season” as a slight departure from the Aquarium’s tradition. The ads feature smiling couples families wearing their Christmas best, smiling despite the fact that they are clearly soaked and covered in sea life.

“It just takes us in a new area – a little bit more conceptual, less literal than just putting Scuba Claus on an ad, and a little bit more of an evocative kind of experience…the fun a family will have when they come, versus showing the features,” he says. “That’s the evolution we’re seeing with this campaign.”

The Soak Up The Season campaign runs until Jan. 2, with creative appearing out-of-home, malls, cinemas and on social.