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Air NZ axes Rico

Controversial mascot is "dead," airline says.

Alex Walls
Wed, 11 Jul 2018

Air New Zealand has axed its Rico mascot.

The airline's shares [NZX:AIR] were down 1.03% to 96c in late trading, a 52-week low. The stock's 52-week range is $1.54-96c.

Famous (or infamous depending on who you are) for random celebrity interviews and a foul mouth, the Jim Henson's Creature Shop-created puppet has been laid to rest (some would say thankfully).

The airline said today the creature of indeterminate species had passed away while hosting a celebrity-packed house-warming party in his Los Angeles mansion, with suspects  including Snoop Dogg, ex-Playmate Holly Hadison, Ma’a Nonu, E! news presenter Guliana Rancic, 80s fitness icon Richard Simmons and Paul Henry.

Air New Zealand said it had teamed up with Hasbro to create a Cluedo-style game where people get the chance to figure out which of the suspects helped to bring about Rico’s demise.

Anyone who figures out who helped bring about Rico’s death wins return airfares for two to Los Angeles, five nights accommodation at a four star hotel and passes to Universal Studios and Disneyland.  If the winner is from LA, a similar trip is on offer, but to New Zealand with accommodation and tours.

Rico’s core purpose over the past year was to draw global attention to Air New Zealand’s economy Skycouch and premium economy Spaceseat, said head of international marketing Jodi Williams.

“As a small airline at the bottom of the world we haven’t had the budgets to take a traditional marketing approach to gain awareness of these award-winning product innovations.  Thanks to Rico they have had fantastic exposure in our core international markets and beyond.”

More than 4.5 million people watched Rico’s videos on YouTube and Chinese equivalent Yoku, and his success was cited by judges as one of the reasons Air New Zealand won the 2011 Airline Business marketing strategy award, she said.

Rico has collaborated with Snoop Dogg, producing Hello Sunshine, and interviewed David Hasselhoff, Lindsay Lohan and Guliana Rancic.

NBR reader comments in the past have varied from commenting on how ugly the puppet was, to how the agency (.99) had jumped the shark, to how the puppet got the brand name out there and was just a bit of fun.

As to what Air New Zealand will use as its mascot next, who knows?  Let’s hope it’s a Jim Henson puppet we can all agree is both hideous and awesome:

Alex Walls
Wed, 11 Jul 2018
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Air NZ axes Rico