Home / Press Releases / Los Angeles Zoo Honored with Visit California Poppy Award for Best Social Media Campaign

Los Angeles Zoo Honored with Visit California Poppy Award for Best Social Media Campaign

Photo courtesy of Visit California

L.A. Zoo’s “K-Pop Mania Comes to the L.A. Zoo” Campaign Recognized for Excellence in Tourism Marketing

(LOS ANGELES), Calif. (Feb. 12, 2020) – Visit California honored tourism destinations and attractions across California for excellence in tourism marketing at the organization’s biennial Poppy Awards, held Feb. 11 in San Diego. Los Angeles Zoo is proud to announce that it was selected as the winner in the Best Social Media category for its “K-Pop Mania Comes to the L.A. Zoo” campaign which took place in 2019.

“The L.A. Zoo is always committed to raising awareness about our animal conservation and education missions in creative ways, with our signature events and amazing animal stories. But this campaign was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we took it. Our marketing team rode this social media wave all the way to the end – and what a wild ride it was!” said Kait Hilliard, VP of Marketing and Communications for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association.

In 2019, the Los Angeles Zoo announced the birth of a little-known animal – one of the smallest deer species in the world called the Southern Pudu – on social media. Unbeknownst to the Zoo at the time, a famous K-pop star in the popular music group NCT 127 named Haechan closely resembles a pudu. Fans of NCT 127 (known as “NCitizans”) already used the nickname “Pudu” for Haechan, because of his cute, doe-like appearance. NCitizans are very active on social media, making them one of the most active legions of followers in the world. Throughout the campaign, the Zoo’s marketing team tapped into the group’s robust social media following and used it to garner positive media coverage and public attention surrounding this feel-good story, even creating T-shirts & Zoo merchandise. Fans ran tumblr accounts, created websites, tweeted and sent around fan art with Haechan and his beloved pudu together. In May, 2019 during NCT 127 North America tour, the Zoo facilitated an actual in-person meeting at the L.A. Zoo with Haechan, his bandmates and his namesake, baby pudu Haechan.

“The Poppy Awards celebrate the best and brightest in California tourism promotion and inspire the industry to continue on a path of innovation and creativity,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “This year’s finalists inspired travelers from around the world to live their biggest dreams in California.”

Beteta, alongside Visit California’s board officers, presented the 2020 Poppy Awards during the 12th annual Visit California Outlook Forum, held Feb. 10-11 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina and attended by nearly 800 tourism industry leaders.

A panel of travel marketing experts selected the winners of the Poppy Awards in 11 categories.

Winners included:

  • Best Overall Brand Identity – less than $1 million: Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau
  • Best Overall Brand Identity – $1 million to $8 million: Visit Laguna Beach
  • Best Overall Brand Identity – $8 million and up: Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Best Content Marketing Initiative (tie):
    • North Lake Tahoe Visitor Bureaus
    • San Francisco Travel Association
  • Best Cooperative Marketing (tie):
    • San Diego Tourism Authority and San Francisco Travel Association
    • Mono County Tourism, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Explore Inyo County and Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau
  • Best Digital Campaign: North Lake Tahoe Visitor Bureaus
  • Best Social Media Campaign: Los Angeles Zoo
  • Best Influencer Campaign: San Francisco Travel Association
  • Best Public Relations Campaign – Destination: Humboldt County Visitors Bureau

New this year, a surprise category – Excellence in Destination Stewardship – was introduced to recognize organizations that act as stewards of California. The winning campaign was a cooperation between the Yosemite Gateways – Mono County Tourism, Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau, Madera County and Visit Tuolumne County.

To round out the evening, Beteta awarded the California Dreamer Award, which recognizes an individual who embodies California’s pioneering spirit, to skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.

More about the Poppy Awards

Poppy Awards are given every two years to acknowledge the best of California’s tourism promotion. The eligibility period for programs submitted for the 2020 Poppy Awards was Jan 1, 2018 – Oct 1, 2019. Submissions were reviewed by Visit California staff, and blind judged by industry committee leadership. The hosts for the 2020 Poppy Awards were Olympic Gold Medalist Jonny Moseley, star of the Visit California series “Jonny Moseley’s Wildest Dreams,” and Chase Ramsey, the face of the organization’s “California Dream Eater” series found on YouTube.

More about Outlook Forum

Outlook Forum is the premier travel industry conference for California, the No. 1 tourism destination in the United States. Outlook Forum brings together nearly 800 C-suite executives and industry decision-makers from California’s hotels, rental cars, attractions, restaurants, retailers and other travel businesses, as well as representatives from Visit California’s global network of offices. Outlook Forum 2020 was the first major event following the California tourism industry’s renewal of Visit California’s marketing program.

About the Los Angeles Zoo

Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing more than 1.8 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,400 animals representing 270 different species, 58 of which are endangered. Its lush grounds on 133 acres feature a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $22 for adults and $17 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo website at lazoo.org.

About Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association

The private, non-profit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) has supported the L.A. Zoo in partnership with the City of Los Angeles for more than five decades; providing funding for, and operating seven essential Zoo departments. GLAZA has 55,000 member households representing more than 210,000 adults and children. As evidence of the Zoo’s popularity, GLAZA attracts one of the largest membership bases of any cultural organization in Los Angeles.

About Visit California

Visit California is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. According to Visit California, spending by travelers totaled $140.6 billion in 2018 in California, generating nearly 1.2 million jobs in the state and $11.8 billion in state and local tax revenues. For more information about Visit California and for a free California Official State Visitor’s Guide, go to www.visitcalifornia.com. For story ideas, media information, downloadable images, video and more, go to media.visitcalifornia.com.