Rico Suave? Air New Zealand goes all animal on you

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Fuzzy, brown creatures are getting their fifteen minutes of marketing fame, and Air New Zealand is hopping on the furwagon!

Meet the newest star to emerge: Rico, Air New Zealand’s cheeky spokespuppet. “Sexier than Virgin’s Richard Branson and  Singapore Air’s Singapore Girls,”  (at least in the eyes of CEO Rob Fyfe), Rico – part sloth, part Latin lover – is taking the friendly skies by storm, to promote Air New Zealand’s new seats and sleek black livery.

In a series of online video advertisements, all of which begin with a short warning of the sensitive nature of the contents and language, Rico interacts with Air New Zealand passengers of all ages, mispronouncing words (“beach” being the cheapest shot) and inadvertently offending his fellow passengers.

While Rico may seem an improbable success, Fyfe explains that the strategy was actually to avoid stereotypes by using a puppet as a spokesperson, rather than a human being. [more]

“The idea of using a character like Rico is that we can appeal to a really broad section of our customer base,” he notes in an interview. “It’s a means to reach out to different markets.”

Known for his sometimes unorthodox approach to marketing and public relations, Fyfe believes he has managed to toe the line between humorous and offensive. Certainly Rico gets away with saying a number of things that would be considered skin-crawlingly creepy coming from a human spokesperson’s mouth. Triumph the comic insult dog, anyone?

Many commentators online seem less than thrilled with Rico, but they’re still talking about him and his little mauve vest. Whether that makes it any more likely that you’ll fly away with him is harder to judge.

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