Lindsay Lohan is one of the stars to feature alongside Rico in Air New Zealand's online ads. Air New Zealand's wacky online advertising campaign is proving its worth, the airline's boss says.
Internet advertisements - featuring a lewd puppet called Rico, rapper Snoop Dogg and troubled celebrity Lindsay Lohan among others - had resulted in a "huge increase" in awareness of Air New Zealand overseas, especially in the United States and China, said chief executive Rob Fyfe.
"Considering we only fly once or twice a day into a lot of these places, that advertising gives us a much higher profile."
Fyfe has said the company cannot afford to compete in traditional media against large carriers like United Airlines, Delta or even Qantas.
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Instead, the national flag-carrier has moved to carve out a marketing niche for itself in cyberspace.
Fyfe said Air New Zealand now had the fourth-biggest Facebook following of all the world's airlines. Its official Facebook page has more than 150,000 followers.
"Yet we're the 46th-largest airline in the world," he said. "People out there are really interested in what Air New Zealand is up to. They follow us on Facebook, they follow us on YouTube and they follow us on Twitter because they're expecting us to do quirky, interesting, funny and innovative stuff."
But the online campaign has not been without its detractors.
This year Roger MacDonnell, a founder of high-profile advertising agency Colenso BBDO, said he thought Air New Zealand had "lost its way".
"They want to be in the new media, they want to be new and be different," he said. "But I don't like what they're doing."