The opportunity for locals to fly international from Newcastle Airport is a huge deal, and something the Airport team had been working towards for a long time. Virgin Australia committed to a 13 week seasonal route, flying return three times per week during the peak holiday period from 22 Nov 2018 to 17 Feb 2019.
Let’s look at the maths: there’d be two flights the first week, then 12 weeks of three flights for a total of 38. Each plane has 176 seats, so 13,376 locals had an opportunity to fly to Auckland.
For a short-haul international holiday, travellers usually book about 56 days in advance. There was 127 days from launch until the first flight. The trick would be getting enough people firstly aware of the new route, then interested in going, and then motivated to book in the time allowed.
This all really started with our Go Smarter campaign. The real way to measure success for an airport is passenger numbers, and in the year following the launch of Go Smarter, Newcastle Airport saw nine months of record passenger increases resulting in a new record for the 2018 financial year of 1,272,634 passengers, an increase of 1.2% or 15,514 passengers over the previous year.
But that wasn’t even the best bit. The increased passenger demand meant airlines started to take notice, so during this time the Airport was also able to attract two brand new routes: a new domestic route to Adelaide with FlyPelican and a long-awaited international route to New Zealand with Virgin Australia! This was huge, as new routes aren’t something the airlines commit to lightly, so for two to recognise Newcastle Airport as a place to grow their business was quite a coup.
We worked in close collaboration with Newcastle Airport’s marketing team before the NZ route was even confirmed and key aspects were still in discussion. We knew that once it was given the green light, the launch would follow very quickly and our concept would have to be ready to go straight into production. There was a little bit of a scramble to get some elements completed when the launch date was brought forward two weeks to allow some VIPs to attend the event, but nothing we couldn’t handle.
Building on our Go Smarter messaging, we focussed on how close New Zealand had suddenly become to Novocastrians. No longer did they have to schlep down the notorious M1, battling Sydney traffic and paying through the nose for tolls and parking. Instead they faced a relatively short drive, a range of ample, affordable parking options then speedy check-in before their holiday begins as they relax in Newcastle Airport’s comfortably redeveloped departures lounge. New Zealand was now close az!
The stage was set for the Deputy Prime Minister to make the announcement with close az banners and posters featuring key campaign messages and custom-shot imagery of a Maori welcoming a visitor with a hongi – the traditional ‘sharing of breath’ greeting. We used this image across the campaign collateral. It perfectly signified closeness, as well as the welcoming and hospitable nature Kiwis are renowned for.
The launch event was kicked off by Maori dancers performing a ceremonial haka ‘close az’ to set the mood. To add further to the NZ flavour, we organised a surprise kiwi fruit gift pack so attending VIPs could have their own slice of heaven.
Launched at the same time was NZcloseaz.com.au, a microsite we built to let consumers know all the details, but more importantly to book their own trip to the land of the long white cloud. Because the Airport doesn’t sell tickets, it was important our campaign still had a strong call to action that let people book their flight. Directing them to the microsite allowed them to book through a prepopulated widget supplied by Virgin Australia. A countdown timer showed the time left to book, itineraries showed them what they could look forward to in Auckland and there was plenty of other Go Smarter info to help seal the deal.
The campaign covered the Lower Hunter across press, digital, social, out of home, TV and radio touch-points.
The centrepiece was the Close Az TVC. It not only proved the direct service offers closer links overseas, but that Newcastle Airport is a closer and smarter way to start your next holiday. Choice, bro!