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Iris chosen to help fix broken Christchurch brand

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After a tender process that ended up attracting over 50 submissions, Sydney agency Iris has been chosen to lead Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism's push to bring Aussie visitors back to the region after the earthquake. 

Some might see it as strange that it's not using a local agency to do that but, as chief executive Tim Hunter says, it was a special task that had special requirements.

"The issue is that while we've had a reasonable rate of recovery into Christchurch in terms of visitors, that hasn't been the case with Australia." 

He says it really need to do something more pro-active with its messaging and look for some fresh thinking from an agency that understood the Australian psyche. It was a very tough and unusual brief: how do you take a brand that's been broken and make it appealing to visitors again? But Iris, which has offices around the world and works with the likes of Adidas and Heineken, was chosen for the quality of their ideas, its great track record and its obvious enthusiasm to do it. 

"We really struggled to arrive at a final decision as everyone was so passionate in their commitment to help us get back on our feet. I think this was the feel good brief of the year," Hunter said in a release. 

It's not a huge account, Hunter says, but he says there was a feelgood, almost philanthropic, element to it, as shown by the number of responses it received to the brief. 

“This was too big an opportunity not to get involved," says Iris Sydney’s managing director Simon Porter in a release. "The chance to help the people of Christchurch and Canterbury by showcasing their ingenuity, passion and spirit in the face of adversity is humbling.”

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism did employ the services of Phil Keoghan just before the first earthquake, with a nice campaign by AMG Agency that showcased some of the region's jewels. But Hunter says it doesn't have a local agency at the moment as it hasn't had any comms requirements since the disaster. It has required plenty of PR, however, using Mode Partners and Barking Owl in Sydney, which will work closely with Iris for the upcoming campaign. 

"But if we were to run a large domestic campaign, we'd try to use a local agency," he says. 

Hunter says some of the news coverage, which often used old footage, hampered visitor arrivals after the event and it is estimated the province has lost between $200-300 million in visitor spend as a result. He says this coverage also influenced the number of travellers putting off trips to the South Island. 

He says overall visitor numbers were down 58 percent in the months after the quake compared to 2010, but it is slowly levelling out and it is now about 21 percent down on 2010 numbers. 

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