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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.

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