Zoo Reopening Campaign
Zoo Knoxville

A Phased Approach to Reopening


Zoo Knoxville, like so many tourism attractions across the country and around the world, has been gravely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While closing the gates in the interest of public safety was certainly the wisest decision, the Zoo is still home to hundreds of animals who need constant care and feeding.

Facing huge shortfalls due to the lack of admissions revenue—and looking hopefully to the day when they could safely reopen—our longtime partners at Zoo Knoxville turned to Designsensory.

In April 2020, the first order of business was a crucial need to generate operating dollars to maintain a high standard of care for the hundreds of animals who call Zoo Knoxville home. With the generous grant of emergency funds from the City of Knoxville and Knox County, the zoo also made a public plea for donations to keep animals well cared-for. That call was met with an overwhelming display of public support. To supplement that outpouring from the community, we created and placed social media posts encouraging people to buy the zoo’s annual passes. These posts helped to immediately bring in badly needed revenue as well as ensure robust attendance when the zoo was able to safely open again.

In May, the zoo staff was optimistic that they would soon be able to reopen. We knew that, in order to make visitors feel safe to return, there would need to be an abundance of information about the safety measures being implemented at the zoo.

We developed a new campaign, “You, Safely Back at the Zoo,” featuring creative elements with a fun, isometric style showcasing masked visitors, appropriately distanced, enjoying their favorite animal friends at the zoo. Our designs also informed the development of clear safety signage encouraging appropriate social distancing, mask wearing and hygienic measures to ensure the safety of both visitors and staff.

In June, we issued a call on social media channels for user-generated content showing visitors safely and responsibly returning to the zoo. Using the hashtag #BackAtTheZoo, content poured in, and we gathered that deluge of material to create a broadcast spot welcoming families back to the zoo. We helped to extend this second phase of the reopening campaign with posters and digital ads.

As people began to return to the zoo, we learned that longtime zoo fans needed to hear more about the zoo making safety a top priority, but the larger public was eager to hear about new animals and new exhibits. We pivoted creative messaging to address both of those needs for each of these unique audiences.

Unfortunately, all of the uncertainty surrounding the shutdown overshadowed one of Zoo Knoxville's newest family members. Tiana the Giant Anteater finally made her grand debut with a series of sensational creative elements as the zoo reopened. We also developed an episodic video series, “The Wild Life,” featuring the behind-the-scenes heroes who keep Zoo Knoxville’s animals happy and healthy and carry out the zoo’s mission and vision every day. The first episode, naturally, was all about Tiana. We’ve supported the development and launch of the show with email campaigns and paid social.

We’re proud of our long partnership with Zoo Knoxville, and we’re excited to continue to walk beside them as they navigate an uncertain landscape.


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