AAMI marketing chief Richard Riboni: social media – the secret to Rhonda campaign’s success this year

Rhonda and Ketut in the AAMI ads

The marketing director behind one of the most popular ads of the year – the AAIM safe driver campaign – has said that social media was the secret to propelling brand heroine Rhonda and her Balinese fling Ketut into the mainstream.

Richard Riboni, executive marketing manager at AAMI, said that a Facebook page devoted to the sexual tension between Rhonda and Katut was the moment he realised that the campaign had struck a nerve with the Australian public.

“Seeing people wearing Rhonda t-shirts in Bali was exciting, but watching that Facebook page take off was the point where we realised that the campaign was bigger than we originally thought – that it had entered the Australian psyche,” he told Mumbrella.

The Facebook page now has more than 115,000 ‘likes’.

“You never really know if the public is going to like the characters you create. Rhonda is an everyday knock-about Aussie girl. She’s the kind of character people can relate to,” said Riboni.

“Many Australians go to Bali, and they know people like Rhonda – she’s a bit cheeky, a bit geeky. People fell more in love with her after the interplay between her and the Balinese characters.”

However, Riboni conceded that the campaign, created by Ogilvy Melbourne, has not proved universally popular.

“Humour is at the heart of the campaign – but humour can be dangerous. What some people find funny, others don’t. We still get emails from people telling us that they don’t like the campaign,” he said.

According to figures from the advertiser off the back of the Rhonda Returns ad (above), recognition of Rhonda has risen from 33% to 67%. AAMI app downloads have increased by 1782% since the launch of the ad.

But Riboni said it was difficult to compare the effectiveness of the Rhonda campaign with others in the past.

“It’s not easy to tell if the Rhonda campaign trumps other AAMI campaigns. The difference with this one is the role played by social media – which has made it so much easier for people to amplify their feelings about the campaign and its characters.”

Riboni said he was undecided on the future of the Rhonda character, given actress Mandy McElhinney’s other commitments.

“Mandy is a well known actor, and her career is taking off. We have to work with her schedule, if we want to use her more in the future,” he said.

McElhinney is set to play Nene King in the next instalment of Paper Giants.

“It’s a balancing act to leverage the positive public sentiment towards Rhonda, while being careful not to take advantage of it,” he said.

Riboni paid tribute to Virgin Mobile’s Fair Go Bro campaign featuring Brad Pitt’s brother Doug as another campaign to strike a chord with the Australian public this year.

AAMI and Virgin Mobile are among the contenders for Mumbrella’s Advertiser of the Year, to feature in the Mumbrella Annual, to be published next month.


  1. HenryG
    16 Nov 12
    2:14 pm

  2. Is it just me or has advertising become the least creative field? Thank God for clients like Richard who still see value in entertaining Mr & Mrs TARPs. There’s still hope…

  3. awesome
    16 Nov 12
    2:33 pm

  4. I believe the original facebook page ‘the sexual tension between Rhonda and Katut’ was created by someone completely unrelated to the campaign, he was a hip hop promoter in Adelaide. Then the brand hijacked it, creating their own. The original page actually spelt ‘Katut’ wrong, then after it achieved 100k+ likes the brand itself built a seperate page with the correct spelling and seems to now be claiming all the credit. Please feel free to correct me if I’ve got it all wrong, if if not this is pretty distasteful for them to bandy round as a success of theirs.

    Still, love the overall campaign.

  5. Robert
    16 Nov 12
    2:53 pm

  6. Indeed, orientalism is sooo funny. What’s next for AAMI? I have a suggestion:

    Asian woman crashes car, looks at the camera and says “Me so sirry, rucky I’m wi AAMI”.

  7. BK
    16 Nov 12
    3:03 pm

  8. It’s not only incredibly base, it’s some of the most racist advertising imaginable and (if it is indeed working) a sad indictment on our society. All involved should be ashamed of themselves.

  9. DeeDee
    16 Nov 12
    3:04 pm

  10. You speak of the actress…who was Ketut. Just came back from Bali myself and they are a wonderful friendly people…what makes this ad work is there is nothing seedy in it

  11. Carole Goldsmith
    16 Nov 12
    3:21 pm

  12. Surely they are going to continue the fling between Rhonda and Katuk…..how about a marriage in Bali and babies……

  13. Steve
    16 Nov 12
    3:37 pm

  14. Obviously getting over 100K people to like an ad campaign is an impressive achievement. A lot of the posts are funny and pretty entertaining.

    But please explain is this paid for by AAMI? The recent comments made by the host around the current cover image are offensive and if I was AAMI and paying for this i’d be getting nervous and the host is making some pretty offensive comments, e.g. “I’m really happy that after all the drinks you’ve spiked and underage girls you’ve bedded…”, “You mean you try to kiss them and drag them into a Tarago and they run away”, “You were the same person sucking my facebook dick yesterday no?”

  15. Shamma
    16 Nov 12
    3:58 pm

  16. the ad is so good because it wasn’t constructed and planned … it happened naturally. Explains why the characters have some warmth.

    All this marketing speak around it makes me fear for the next instalment. Also, people did talk about things to other people before social media. Believe it or not people do actually converse in person still.

  17. The Fcuking Admin
    16 Nov 12
    4:36 pm

  18. Yeah I don’t work for the the company so pretty much anything I say directed at people attempting to troll me and the page is of my own accord and has nothing to do with AAMI. But I feel credit should 100% be given to me for the success of this campaign when it comes to the social media aspect of this. The ad wouldn’t be what it is today without me. Fair enough someone may have come along and done the same thing but the simple fact is they didn’t. Thank you for quoting some of my excellence Steve. I appreciate it.

  19. Nigel
    16 Nov 12
    4:56 pm

  20. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this fundamentally a TV campaign? Oh dear, you bunch of luddites, didn’t you know TV is dead????

  21. nell schofield
    16 Nov 12
    5:16 pm

  22. i had always assumed that the agency or advertiser had set up the Facebook page and purchased the likes

    isn’t this what everyone does these days to make others think their ads are loved?

  23. Janine
    17 Nov 12
    12:29 am

  24. Quote: “The marketing director behind one of the most popular ads of the year – the AAIM safe driver campaign – has said that social media was the secret to propelling brand heroine Rhonda and her Balinese fling Ketut into the mainstream.”

    Incorrect – TV did that. That’s where I saw the interplay between the actors, that’s where I felt “I could be Rhonda”.

    I must say – the first run of ads were overkill – 10+ frequency – I was sooo sick of seeing Rhonda being awarded by her work mates and driving through the street parade. I was annoyed by the AAMI ads.

    BUT – when they started the Bali ads (on TV), I was ABSOLUTELY aware of who Rhonda was.

    I talked about her to my workmates at birthday morning teas, with my family at baby showers. I love Rhonda and so do they.

    I don’t have a Facebook account. Social media didn’t propel her into the mainstream, TV did. Social media just allowed AAMI to gage the reaction to Rhonda.

    No: I don’t work for any media organisation
    Yes: My new car is insured by AAMI (but I have been a customer for over 12 years)

  25. David
    17 Nov 12
    8:34 am

  26. It’s a good, solid campaign. Created on insight.

    Not sure Facebook likes is (or ever will be) a good yardstick for whether an idea strikes a nerve or not. It’s a response, but how valuable is it? Especially when it comes from a user page (not exactly a hard thing to do) and hosts commentary that could easily turn on the brand? Facebook has come in for some sharp (and valid) criticism for allowing wildly offensive pages to populate under their brand.

    When a user likes this page, what are they actually liking? I’d say the brand is the least of them.

    Age old question I guess but there are better ways to measure engagement and behaviour change (some of which are highlighted in the story).

    The campaign started real conversations (not just social media chatter). And it started with TV, so let’s not forget that.

    Next challenge is to know when to move on, before it run’s out of steam.

  27. Shamma
    17 Nov 12
    5:01 pm

  28. Maybe Rhonda is a clear demonstration that TV is the real kingmaker for brands and marketing people. If Rhonda and Ketut was a piece of branded content left alone on YouTube we’d all probably be blissfully unaware of it.

  29. JackieChan
    18 Nov 12
    10:54 am

  30. Robert your a farking racist douche bag.

  31. CJ
    18 Nov 12
    11:51 am

  32. Rhonda & Katut 2.0
    Katut chases Rhonda back to Australia can’t stop thinking about that brake foot. They settle in buy a place and get AAMI home insurance.
    Rhona & Katut 3.0
    They both travel back to Bali to get permission from his Balinese parents to get married. But they lost their luggage on the way back, luckily they took AAMI Travel Insurance out.
    Rhonda & Katut 4.0
    Rhonda see’s Katut rubbing the foot of the neighbour next door. Enraged with anger she kills him. Luckily she made Katut take out Life Insurance.

    …..So many possibilities to come.

  33. The fcuking admin
    19 Nov 12
    9:35 pm

  34. Janine if you don’t have Facebook these days you can definitely exclude yourself from the mainstream I’m afraid.