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Billboards to Boost North Carolina Zoo

Date: August 05, 2003



Larger-than-life images of N.C. Zoo animals will begin appearing on billboards on major highways this month to lure visitors to the state zoo.


The billboard advertising represents a donation of more than $550,000 by Fairway Outdoor Advertising for the zoo, which experienced its lowest attendance in 11 years during the past fiscal year.


The 20 billboards will tout the zoo as part of the N.C. Division of Tourism's 2003 in-state advertising campaign - "Discover the State You're In" - to encourage North Carolinians to travel within the state.


Fairway's contribution for the zoo was announced Monday at a press conference at the company's Greensboro office and attended by officials from the company as well as the N.C. Zoo and N.C. Zoological Society, along with representatives of local and state governments.


"We think this gesture is an excellent way to show our commitment to the state of North Carolina, where our Fairway division has a great many loyal, long-term business relationships," said William S. Morris IV, president of the parent company, Morris Communications Co., of which Fairway Outdoor Advertising is a division.


Zoo Director Dr. David Jones said Fairway's "generous contribution" should help the zoo build much-needed revenue by attracting more visitors.


"With state budgets so tight, it is very important that we generate as much of our operating budget as possible through our own revenues and admissions are a large part of those revenues," Jones said.


The statewide advertising campaign was initially developed in partnership with the N.C. Association of Broadcasters, the N.C. Press Association and the N.C. Outdoor Advertising Association, of which Fairway is a member.

Fairway serves customers in the Carolinas and Virginia as well as other states. Their billboards are strategically located along primary and secondary highways, including Interstates 40 and 85 and U.S. 220, according to company officials. The zoo billboards will be located throughout the state.


The outdoor advertising venture involving 20 billboards is one of many marketing avenues being utilized to boost zoo attendance.


Ralph Rodriquez, the zoo's marketing consultant, presented a marketing update at last week's annual joint meeting of the N.C. Zoological Council and the zoo society's board of directors. The zoo society is providing the funding for the zoo's marketing effort.


He talked about the billboard promotion as well as other ways to promote the zoo. The zoo will also participate, with other zoos nationwide, in a promotion by Kraft Foods for its newest Kool-Aid Jammers juice drink being unveiled this month. Participating zoos will be listed on the product and people will be able to use a discount coupon toward zoo admission.


Rodriguez also said the zoo has formed a partnership, effective in late March this year, with AAA Carolinas to sell zoo tickets, with a $1 discount offered for adult admissions. Thirty-three offices in North and South Carolina are participating.


He said interest in the partnership has been expressed by AAA offices in Virginia; AAA in Florida is being pursued since that state has the highest percentage of N.C. tourists.

He also reported that public relations efforts over the past year resulted in zoo publicity valued at $844,171 in print media and $1,225,670 in broadcast media.


Emphasis is also being placed on developing new special events to attract visitors to the zoo during non-peak times.


Two new events are expected to be added this year - "Nightmare on Purgatory Mountain" and a holiday lights display. Both will occur after normal zoo operating hours.


The "Nightmare" event, in conjunction with Halloween, will be a tram ride and walking activity "to deliver an evening of fun, fright and surprises to children of all ages."


Rodriguez said some 40-50 volunteers will be needed nightly for the event; students from two colleges, Elon and Guilford, are expected to help out.


The new event, in addition to the annual Boo at the Zoo activities Oct. 25-26, is planned for nine nights, Oct. 17-18, Oct. 24-25 and Oct. 27-31.


The second new event, for which plans are still being developed, is holiday lights at the zoo - a display featuring one million lights. From 6-10 p.m. daily from Nov. 28-Dec. 30, motorists can view the "colorful and engaging visual experience" for $10 a vehicle.




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