Frank the crayfish costs Wellington ratepayers $16k - and counting
The creation of a giant "consciousness-raising" crayfish named Frank has so far cost Wellington ratepayers about $16,000, with $3465 spent on a crayfish costume.
The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) campaign, aimed at raising public awareness about environmental issues, was launched in July this year with the first of three planned videos focusing on responsible wood burning.
It features "Frank" – a man in a crayfish suit – who stops another man from burning treated wood in his fireplace. It warns would-be burners to not "make Frank cray-cray".
GWRC chairman Chris Laidlaw said it was a "very original" and "clever" consciousness-raising campaign, but the cost of it was not information he would "normally busy myself with".
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"It's an operational matter. We have a whole lot of initiatives like this. These sorts of activities cost money."
A GWRC spokesman said the three planned campaigns - about wood burning, driving on beaches and washing paint brushes - would show "real value for money" if it could change "some of the behaviours that impact on Wellington's environment".
A poster featuring Frank was also created, with a link to more information about the campaign.
The Taxpayers' Union said it had "put feelers out" - lodged a LGOIMA - regarding the cost of Frank.
Spokesman Louis Houlbrooke said it was "yet another example" of a council attempting to emulate "corporate gimmickry".
"Unlike corporate advertisers who need to stand out from competitors, the council is a monopoly service provider. It could have settled for a cheap, no-frills and less confusing marketing campaign."
From a ratepayer perspective, it was "rock bottom stuff".
In a response to the Taxpayers' Union's LGOIMA on the matter, GWRC people and customer general manager Nigel Corry said the campaign arose from a need to share information with the public that could "avoid putting harmful substances in storm water drains, in particular, car washing advice".
"As this was a behaviour-change campaign we sought the most effective method, something that would capture our audience's attention.
"At the same time there was a need to share information on some other actions people were taking that were harming our environment, related to air quality - wood burning - and beaches.
"As an organisation with environmental departments we're in the right position to educate and advocate."
The first video had been uploaded to Youtube on July 7 and by September 10 had just under 500 views. Across social media platforms it had received 12,602 views.
GWRC had chosen an "enabling campaign with quirky elements to challenge bad behaviour, rather than an enforcement approach".
The costume was owned by Greater Wellington and was in its Wellington office, ready for use on other campaigns. It would also be used for "general event promotion".
"Choosing a crayfish also enables us to give a serious environmental message while adding some humour - a grown man in an elaborate crayfish costume.
"Although most closely related to water quality campaigns, we also chose to have Frank the crayfish appear across other environmental campaigns as a general symbol of good environmental behaviour."
The name "Frank" had been chosen to complement the tagline "Let's have a frank conversation about ...".
A commenter on the wood burning video asked what a salt water crayfish had to do with burning firewood.
"This video is horrible, maybe worse than horrible ... Why is his name Frank?
"Craig the crayfish sounds better."
Video production (Better Burning)
* Costume: $3465
* "Frank" actor: $2500 ("five years for three separate videos about three different environmental issues")
* Other talent: $300
* Lights: $55
* Catering for crew: $250
* Voice-overs and copy writing: $840
* Talent wrangling: $500
* Total Frank digital (social) media (July 2019 – February 2020): $15,350 (for three campaigns)
* 3 bus backs: $1245
* Poster printing: $667.43
* Google search promotion: $630
* Advertorial in Wairarapa Mid-Week: $500