Adventure Aquarium
“Shark Fest”

CLIENT: Adventure Aquarium
CAMPAIGN: Shark Fest. Shark infested fun.
EXHIBIT: Sharks on display throughout the aquarium.
OBJECTIVE: Drive attendance and develop consumer pride.

Our first campaign at Adventure Aquarium was in 2012 for their Spring/Summer season. The Aquarium is located in Camden, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia and has been in existence for 20 years. It was first developed as the non-profit New Jersey State Aquarium featuring freshwater fish.

In 2005, it was privatized as a for-profit facility. It was completely renovated and expanded as a world-class aquarium to include saltwater animals and to anchor the development of the Camden Waterfront as a tourist destination.

The surrounding area was slow to develop and, as a result, the Aquarium found itself isolated in a perceived crime-ridden area by Philadelphia consumers.

The Aquarium suffered a huge decrease in attendance in 2011. Qualitative and quantitative research was conducted and a variety of issues emerged. There were distinctly different consumer perceptions between Philadelphia’s large metro market and the Aquarium’s hometown Camden market. More importantly, there was a general lack of awareness of the Aquarium in both markets.

Our objectives were to generate consumer awareness and pride, overcome the negative perception of the Aquarium as a “fish museum” and communicate the “cool and wow” factors of the facility. To help overcome the “been there, done that, why go back” consumer attitude that was detrimental to repeat visits, we developed a new tagline – “Always Something New to See and Do” – and used the new campaign to introduce it.

The Aquarium had commissioned a traveling “Megaladon Shark” exhibit as a limited-time summer offering that was intended to be the “new” summer attraction. We felt that it would merely reinforce the “fish museum” perception we were trying to overcome.

Instead, we took the marketing and husbandry departments through our strategic development process and discovered a fascinating opportunity as a result. The Aquarium was home to an extensive collection of sharks that had never been promoted. We were able to claim that the Aquarium had more sharks on display than any other facility on the East Coast.

We also learned that a new hammerhead shark would be joining another hammerhead shark already on display. That would give the Aquarium more hammerhead sharks on display than anywhere else in the country. In addition to the new Megaladon exhibit, the Aquarium also had a wide range of shark interactives and a shark touch pool that allowed visitors to pet sharks. We determined that packaging the entire shark experience would give us something exciting to promote and reinforce our new tagline.

The challenge was that the shark experience went beyond a single exhibit and was scattered throughout the Aquarium. We determined that a significant marketing opportunity existed by promoting the Aquarium as “shark headquarters” for the summer. To package the entire Aquarium as a shark experience, we developed the campaign theme of:

Shark Fest. It’s shark-infested fun.

The fully integrated campaign consisted of TV and outdoor.

The TV commercial was designed to increase awareness for Adventure Aquarium as a destination where visitors could discover a large variety of sharks and the many ways to experience them. It also used the new experience as a way to introduce and reinforce the Aquarium’s new tagline of “Always Something New to See and Do.”


The outdoor campaign consisted of billboards strategically placed in the Philadelphia/Camden metro area to build brand awareness for Shark Fest and remind consumers that Adventure Aquarium was an accessible and safe destination.

OUTDOOR (click to enlarge)

The Shark Fest campaign increased attendance 24% over the previous year and delivered the greatest visitor attendance since their grand opening in 2005. In addition, attendance from the Philadelphia market showed a 28% improvement over 2011 and the campaign delivered a total revenue growth of 17%.

The campaign also scored a win at the National Comcast LAMP Awards. The advertising contest was created to recognize campaigns that demonstrate media innovation, creativity and campaign results.