Toronto Zoo goes on name-search safari

The zoo has launched its largest OOH campaign ever to find names for its baby giant panda cubs.

The Toronto Zoo has two adorable new residents, and it wants Canadians to help name them.

Giant pandas are ambassadors of wildlife conservation, so naming them holds a degree of importance to the Toronto Zoo, says Kimberly Haider, marketing manager, Toronto Zoo. Despite not having the funds to partner with its typical agencies on the promotion, the zoo created a campaign to get Canadians to pick their favourite of seven names, which are all online at The names were generated in collaboration between Canada and China, where the pair and their mother are on loan from until 2018.

Budgetary constraints on the campaign for the not-for-profit Toronto Zoo meant the creative and much of the media was bought and placed in-house, a first for Haider and her small team. OOH spots in the campaign were donated through a partnership with OMAC, with space supplied by Astral OOH, Clear Channel Canada, Lamar Transit, Outfront Media, Pattison Outdoor and Quebecor Media Out-of-Home.

The campaign is also the first national promotion for the Toronto Zoo, with spots hitting the major markets of Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. OOH spots in the campaign are a mix of bus and transit shelter ads (TSAs) in Toronto and Quebec, digital boards at spots like Bay and Dundas in Toronto and super boards along areas like the Gardiner Expressway. The campaign also includes a set of 80 interactive transit shelters in Quebec, which allow passersby to name the pandas on the street. There are also print and digital ads in the Toronto Star.

“As we were planning for out-of-home media, we knew we needed to keep it simple, clear, easily digestible and of course share the most engaging possible images of Canada’s first giant panda cubs we could fit in the layout,” she says.

Haider says the target demographic for the Toronto Zoo is young families with children under the age of 12, with a particular emphasis on mothers.

Creative on ads features copy like “bet you can’t name just one,” “tired of just being called cute” and “cute is just our middle name.” All ads in the campaign drive passerby to Ads asking for help naming the pandas will run until the end of February, with a new set of ads featuring the selected name going live on March 8 in the same locations.

The baby pandas will have their public debut at the Toronto Zoo on March 12.