From a hiss to a roar

NZ Events and Entertainment Corporation (NZEEC), buoyed by the success of 2011’s Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular, followed it up with another live event in 2012 – ‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Arena Spectacular’.
Mogul’s job was to apply our skills and experience in digital marketing to ensure the publicity was kept on the boil and the maximum number of tickets was sold.

We took NZEEC through the Mogul Methodology every step of the way:

We knew that NZEEC and its founder, Bruce Mactaggart, would be promoting the ‘How to Train Your Dragon Arena Spectacular” show very effectively using publicity, TVCs, radio, and print.
We also knew that — no one was familiar with How to Train Your Dragon Arena Spectacular as a live event. Unlike ‘Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular’, which was a proven entity after years of touring around the world, the HTTYD premiere was only going to show in Melbourne the month before the Auckland event. So, to stimulate interest, we had to make the fans feel like they were seeing the new show in production as the final touches were being applied, with personalised email updates from Bruce, sneak peek videos and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage.
So, we needed to:

  • create the best online platform for engaging these visitors, pique their interest with exclusive videos and news updates, and let them know it was the hottest ticket in town
  • make the site highly visible in search engines so they could find it straight away
  • capture their contact details even if they weren’t prepared to buy tickets just yet

Mogul created a dedicated microsite for HTTYD in New Zealand so that, unlike the Ticketmaster or Dreamworks sites, NZEEC could have complete control over the site’s content. They could collect email addresses, run competitions, include links to social networks, and add video and news updates to keep fans engaged.
The Dragons microsite conveyed the drama and excitement of the live experience, by incorporating online video courtesy of YouTube, an embedded Facebook page, and a widescreen background image of a massive dragon surrounded by ecstatic fans shrouded in smoke.
Paradoxically, the difficulty with such a well-known entertainment brand is that after seeing the ad or news story on TV, most interested fans will go to their computer and simply type ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ into Google, and end up on the Dreamworks website, or the Ticketmaster site, which NZEEC has very limited influence over.
Because of this, the new site ( performed poorly in Google’s organic search rankings – it was only attracting about five visits per day from searches because it was a brand new site and competing with the hugely popular HTTYD sites from Dreamworks and Ticketmaster.

Google Adwords and Facebook:

To overcome the problem of the microsite’s poor visibility, we needed paid advertising to direct this huge volume of Google and Facebook search traffic to the microsite in the most cost-effective way.
We saw from Google Adwords that the site would get top spot in Google’s paid search rankings for only about $1 per click. And we could expect about 50 clicks per day from New Zealand alone. It was clear that this was a good deal.
We also looked at Facebook’s estimate. Facebook indicated that we could expect to pay a similar amount per click, but our experience told us that Facebook traffic is usually poor and doesn’t yield as many paying customers.
So we started a paid ad campaign with $100 daily budget split evenly between Google and Facebook and covering New Zealand and Australia, and we placed tracking tags on the ‘Buy Tickets’ links so that we could tell how effective the ads were at driving sales.

Email marketing:

Because NZEEC controls the microsite, NZEEC was able to run competitions in order to collect email addresses for ongoing email marketing.
Over 5000 visitors joined the email list for the Dragons show, in addition to those who had previously signed up during the Walking with Dinosaurs promotions in 2011. So NZEEC had permission to send promotional emails to a large pool of qualified people in the run up to the show, with news updates, photos, sneak peeks, and videos.

Within a matter of days, it was clear that the only ads that were ‘doing the business’ were Google Adwords placed in New Zealand.
These ads had a very high conversion rate – more than half of the visitors coming from these ads went on to buy tickets. As soon as we saw this, we cancelled the Facebook ads, put all the ad budget into New Zealand Google Adwords, and doubled the budget there for the remaining period.
We continued to monitor the performance of the ads and succeeded in driving the cost per click down from $1 to only a few cents per click by optimising the keywords.

In total, the Google Adwords drove 19,441 visitors to the microsite, and over 10,000 clicked through to buy tickets.
The total spend on Adwords was under $4,000 for the whole campaign.
So that’s well under a mere 40 cents per ticket sale!
Each email campaign produced an additional 500 clickthroughs to buy tickets.


The campaign was a great success, and Dragons went on to set new ticket sales records, largely on the strength of strong PR aligned and coordinated with a well-planned and well-integrated digital strategy.
A well-planned, integrated approach using paid ads, email marketing, and a dedicated microsite is highly effective for this type of event marketing, especially when the event website is swamped in the organic search rankings by much bigger and more established websites.