SeaWorld’s image sank a few years back in the wake of the controversial Blackfish documentary. That film probed the death of whale trainer Dawn Brancheau, killed by an orca at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010, and condemned keeping such creatures in captivity.
Today, however, the marine life park is turning the tide, on the marketing front at least. It just topped Ace Metrix’s quarterly survey of “Top Breakthrough Ads” with the 90-second spot below, created by Charleston, S.C., agency Push Digital. Ace defines its Top Breakthrough Ads as the ones with the highest combination of “Attention” and “Likeability” scores in its methodology.
Whoa, that pouty porpoise and sweet-faced seal are so gosh-darned adorbs, SeaWorld must be the greatest place on earth. Right?
While there’s nothing revolutionary about the ad or its creative approach, those cuddly rescued animals and feel-good vibes did really resonate with viewers. Still, it’s surprising, perhaps, especially considering the source, that “From Park to Planet” nosed out content ranging from GE’s inspirational “Meet Molly,” about an amazingly inventive young girl, and Walmart’s heart-tugging hurricane relief spot.
In fact, according to Ace Metrix, the SeaWorld spot “ranks as the single highest-rated travel ad” in the research group’s database, which dates back to 2010. “Viewers were moved by the powerful message, which was reinforced by beautiful visuals,” Ace says in a post published with the rankings. “After dealing with a tarnished reputation in recent years, SeaWorld successfully demonstrated to most viewers that they are committed to making a positive impact on this planet.”
Michael Rentiers, president of brands and advocacy at Push Digital, says that his shop—well-versed in crisis communications and political campaigns—chose to create inclusive content that emphasizes SeaWorld’s broader mission beyond its tarnished reputation as an entertainment venue.
“Our goal was to cut through the clutter and to present SeaWorld in a new light, with a larger mission that every SeaWorld guest contributes to,” he tells Adweek. “We wanted people to see that SeaWorld is a premier destination that is a force for good in the world. We absolutely feel like we are accomplishing our goal. A good political approach is about moving people to take action. We took a creative and emotional approach to a direct message: ‘Together, we can save the oceans and ocean animals, and have fun doing it.'”
Adds agency CEO Wesley Donehue: “We just need to get the truth out there and show that SeaWorld is spending a ton of money making the world a better place.”
Agency: Push Digital
Michael Rentiers, President, Brands and Advocacy
Wesley Donehue, CEO
Blake Williams, Videographer
Alisa Myers, Editor
John Rokicki, SVP, Creative Director Writer & Creative Director
Jonathan Williams, Account Executive
Brooke Willaby, Digital Advertising Director
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