Air New Zealand isn’t above doing something a little scandalous to bring in customers and publicity. Two years ago, it painted uniforms onto the skin of supposed members of a ANZ flight crew for an ad campaign, raising more than a few eyebrows.
Then a year ago, the airline introduced a brand mascot: a raunchy puppet named Rico, who starred in an online-only ad campaign in which he used “sexual innuendo and chats with B-grade celebrities,” such as David Hasselhoff, Richard Simmons, Snoop Dogg and Lindsay Lohan, to help sell the airline, according to New Zealand’s Stuff.
Rico found some success, collecting 4.5 million YouTube viewers and more than 48,000 Facebook fans along the way. ANZ is likely the only major airline that had a series of online ads starring a puppet that all opened with the text, “The following video contains language and themes of a sensitive nature. Viewer discretion is advised.”
Now comes word that ANZ has “killed off” Rico — just as Ford recently retired its annoying sock puppet, Doug — news which is pleasing some New Zealanders. "I didn't feel that he did a great job of representing our country, and I don't know why a South American rat had to be used as an example of a New Zealand persona," said Paul Catmur, the creative director of ad agency Barnes, Catmur and Friends, though he did note that the campaign helped raise international awareness of ANZ without spending massive dollars, Stuff reports.
Still, kudos for the airline for taking a bold approach to its marketing. "Too few New Zealand advertisers are prepared to stick their neck out,” said TBWA ad agency chief executive David Walden to Stuff. “They should be applauded for doing that, but if the research has told them it's not working then they've orchestrated an elegant exit and that's all good."
Well, the exit isn’t totally over. Rico is now part of an online game, Cluedo, in which participants try to figure out who offed him. Good luck to those who choose to accept this mission.