Creating Zoo Members for Life with Conservation Clarissa

Client :Zoo Knoxville

Each winter, Zoo Knoxville aims to boost membership sales for the upcoming year. Aligned with its conservation mission, youth education messaging and a target audience of parents with young children, we introduced Conservation Clarissa, an illustrated mascot that takes viewers on a journey through various zoo habitats, emphasizing zoo membership as a passport to adventure.

Insight

Zoo Knoxville’s Membership campaign is timed to the end of the year to support raising capital for the following year and launches at the beginning of the gifting season. With several brand elements already in place, such as the membership passes being branded as passports and kids eligible to receive the designation of honorary keepers, we built upon the zoo’s current system and folded into its messaging that conservation is a lifelong mission to protect wildlife.

Approach

With a focus on the “passport to adventure” narrative, we communicated this mission by appealing to and aligning with our target audience through a branded, explorer-themed mascot that embodies a sense of youth and curiosity — Conservation Clarissa.

We developed and workshopped the character and created a custom-illustrated system that included not only our mascot but flat, textured, vibrant representations of keepers, animals and habitats at Zoo Knoxville like Grasslands Africa, the ARC and Asia Trek. Once the illustrations were developed, we brought the character to life through storyboarding and motion.

The animated adventure starts with Clarissa being gifted a passport from a relative, which transports her to different lands represented at Zoo Knoxville. The spot brings us back to the zoo where Clarissa is named an honorary keeper. With a call to action to buy an annual membership – or gift one – and start your adventure at the zoo, we used the spot to support Black Friday and Cyber Week placements and extended it through the holiday season. Additionally, as part of the larger media plan, we implemented movie-specific cinema advertising, as box offices see a notable uptick in attendance from individuals and families around the holidays.

Beyond targeted out-of-home media placements, we also met people where they are during the holidays — out shopping. Leveraging the illustrations, we brought Clarissa to life as the centerpiece for an experiential activation at the Knoxville mall. These life-size, 2D cut-outs of Clarissa, animals and habitats aimed to garner attention from families and encouraged them to participate in the pop-up by scavenger hunting to find hidden animal stickers to win a red panda stuffed animal.

With the installation staying up from Black Friday to just before Christmas, representatives were also on-site to talk about the zoo’s mission and sell memberships during high-traffic times.

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Results

The Conservation Clarissa campaign achieved significant reach and engagement and generated over 400 additional memberships for the zoo, while maintaining an excellent CPC of $0.78.

The Clarissa ads saw the highest resonance with families, indicating a strong alignment with the target demographic. This was closely followed by engagement from grandparents, then “singles and starters,” showcasing a broad appeal. Notably, the highest purchase and engagement rates were observed from retargeting audiences, indicating increased brand familiarity and engagement among previous visitors to the zoo.

The inclusion of Conservation Clarissa in the holiday campaigns was a successful strategy, with these ads ranking as the top three performing ads overall.

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“We spent a while deciding who Clarissa was going to be and really developed her character, then used that to inform all of the design decisions. Above all, we wanted her to feel full of energy and fun, the way we feel when we visit the zoo.”

Lisa Schweikert
Lisa Schweikert
Motion Designer

Located in the center of the mall during the holiday shopping season, the activation saw significant foot traffic.

The people who made it happen.
  • Chris Cable
    VP, Creative
  • Lisa Schweikert
    Motion Designer
  • Joseph Nother
    Chief Creative Officer, Co-CEO
  • Kate Ambos
    VP, Client Services
  • Caroline Duggan
    Program Manager
  • Brad Carpenter
    VP, Engagement Marketing
  • Bonnie Adams
    Influencer and Experiential Manager
  • Ben Maxey
    Art Director, Lead Motion