Smithsonian O. Orkin Insect Safari
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Smithsonian O. Orkin Insect Safari

In 2001, the Orkin Man turned 100. But, the year unleashed some serious “bugs” for the pest control company. Sales leads were down; national advertising no longer yielded solo revenue-generating power.

Paul Holmes

In 2001, the Orkin Man turned 100. But, the year unleashed some serious “bugs” for the pest control company. Sales leads were down; national advertising no longer yielded solo revenue-generating power. Perceived as more trustworthy, local exterminators were gaining ground.

Still, research confirmed that consumers respect for Orkin as a leader in technology and an insect world educator. The hallmark of this reputation? The O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Since 1993, Orkin has sponsored the nation’s pre-eminent insect zoo, and the company has stood among the “entomological elite.”

To regain consumer trust, Ketchum urged Orkin to take Smithsonian’s Insect Zoo concept beyond the Beltway of Washington D.C. in celebration of the company’s centennial. Ketchum convinced the company to use grassroots marketing and online communication to remind consumers within Orkin communities that the Orkin Man is an insect expert and a trusted member of each community Orkin serves. Enter the Smithsonian O. Orkin Insect Safari – an interactive insect experience on wheels that successfully re-energized the Orkin brand and reversed declining sales leads by enabling high-impact consumer connections.

Increase sales leads in Orkin’s top Markets
Reach more than 90K consumers directly and more than 50 million indirectly with the exhibit


“Brand Dynamics” research conducted for Orkin by Millward Brown, Inc.reinforced the emergence of increased competition from local exterminators (perceived as more trustworthy); it showed that a localized, grassroots approach was necessary.

Ketchum’s Roper Starch-sourced “Power Brand” research revealed that today’s category leaders must increasingly connect with consumers directly to retain leadership.

A white paper of third party research proved the positive impact effective kids’ programs can have on sales.

Focus groups with elementary science teachers gave clues on how best to reach teacher audiences, reinforced the value of the exhibit concept.

An audit of museum leaders confirmed the value of the concept and provided initial outlet ideas.


· Enable Orkin to bring the Smithsonian to the communities it serves; make Orkin’s link with the nation’s most respected education institution relevant to its communities
· Partner the Orkin brand with trusted local entities (schools, museums, teachers, entomologists); deliver the message that Orkin is a trusted local citizen
· Integrate program messages and exercises into classwork that parents are likely to see; extend the life of the exhibit beyond its walls and into the home
· Give the exhibit national reach and news value; enable universal access to its lessons


Built The Smithsonian O.Orkin Insect Safari: a six-segment experience that engages and educates about the vital role insects play in the environment:
· Partnered with GMR Marketing on the construction and tour management, and education experts Flying Rhinoceros to create the bright cartoon images of 53-foot mobile unit
· Smithsonian entomologists created four lessons – meeting National Science Standards – about how insects thrive and survive in our environment; docents trained by Smithsonian entomologists lead the interactive discussions
· Engaged local entomologists brought live bug displays for culmination of the visits; brought the lessons to life
· Provided teachers pre- and post-lesson plans to anticipate and reinforce the learnings

Created an irresistible media story to extend the exhibit’s goodwill beyond the walls of the exhibit: kids+bugs+Smithsonian+local tie = news coverage:
· Launched the exhibit with an unveiling at the Smithsonian; capitalized on the credibility of the museum to generate national and local market media awareness and coverage; conducted media relations at each stop of the 108-city tour
· Leveraged local appeal and media ties of the museums and guest entomologists
· Ensured convenience of exhibit stops to media centers
· Ad agency J. Walter Thompson produced advertisements for museums to place locally

Sparked a school–home connection; ensured parents knew about Orkin’s program:
· Gave students an activity book for use at home (with parents)
· Provided each school a class picture with the cartoon bug characters
· Ensured schools and museums printed information about the exhibit in their newsletters
· Created as the home of all information related to the tour, including  assignments, activities, lesson plans, tour schedules; used Web site to reach communities not visited by the tour


Objective #1 Increase sales leads in Orkin Markets
· Nearly 70 percent of markets visited by the tour showed an increase of sales leads over the previous year (no other changes were made to marketing mix)
· Lead increases averaged six percent and ended trend of sales lead decline

Objective #2 Generate awareness of Orkin’s Smithsonian connection; 90K directly
· 153K people visited the exhibit (surpassing goals)
· 162 Orkin employees volunteered at the exhibit; 97 percent of Orkin employee volunteers rated the exhibit high in quality; more than 1500 children sent thank-you notes to Orkin
· Teachers audited after the exhibit noted that “the educational aspect was at a high level – well researched and presented”; “used the in-class materials and activity books” and “would host the Insect Safari again ‘in a heartbeat’” (Note: Teachers specifically sent notes thanking us for “going on with the show” after 9/11.)

Indirectly: Objective of 50 million impressions
· Throughout the year, 512 stories appeared in print and broadcast; print coverage generated more than 66 million media impressions;
· Of total print coverage collected, 88 percent of the stories were full feature articles; stories averaged 13 column inches; 100 percent mentioned Orkin prominently as sponsor of the exhibit ; 44 percent of the articles featured photos of the exhibit
· Eight hours of television coverage about the exhibit was secured – including 41 in-depth morning show segments

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