San Diego Zoo Gets the Big Chill

September 15, 2010

By Barbara Goldman

Rainer Stratmann

Recently the world-famous San Diego Zoo had the task of transforming its southern California residence into an assortment of very exotic environments. This is nothing new for the zoo, as they are known for their tradition of transforming their exhibits.

For this new endeavor, “The New Polar Bear Plunge Exhibit,” the San Diego Zoo brought in the ad agency M&C Saatchi LA. The task was to introduce the recently refreshed polar bear exhibit to the world and invite visitors on “an expedition for the whole family.” The attraction would take guests on an adventurous and educational tour through the world of the Arctic, while maintaining an exciting tone that would appeal to all ages. The team at M&C Saatchi LA, Art Director Ron Tapia, Copywriter Dennis Di Salvo, and Creative Director Martin Dix, were on a mission to find a shooter who could literally bring the arctic to the San Diego Zoo and deliver on this concept of a “family expedition,” complete with parents, kids, a stroller pulled by a team of Huskies and even a cuddly teddy bear. To bring this arctic atmosphere to life, M&C Saatchi brought in photographer Rainer Stratmann.

Hailing from an often-frigid town just outside of Frankfurt, Germany, and having shot in just about every environment on the planet, Stratmann is a bit of an explorer in his own right. With a less-is-more philosophy, Stratmann prefers working with small crews, much like a photojournalist, but executes his assignments with an attention to detail one typically finds on the set of a major motion picture.

Stratmann was trained in the skills of lithography at Bertelsmann/Mohn media, one of the largest publishing/media companies in the world. After his studies of graphic-design, photography, and film in Dortmund and Bielefeld, Germany and an assistantship at Studio Jacques Schuhmacher, he started his own studio in Frankfurt in the mid-to-late 1980s, shooting advertising campaigns and editorial for major clients in Germany.

He now resides in the countryside near Frankfurt, shooting location photography and assignments all over the world. M&C Saatchi LA chose Stratmann for this campaign after seeing his “Istanbul Inspirations: Cultural City 2010” project done last year for the Turkish Government’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture with agency RPM/Radar Istanbul. On that project, both client and agency wanted a photographic icon to represent Istanbul’s oldest historic district. Stratmann worked to create the most inspiring image of Istanbul’s historic borough, and it was his storytelling presentation from that campaign that won over M&C Saatchi LA for the San Diego Zoo Polar Bear Expedition.

To bring the Polar Bear Expedition campaign to life, Stratmann had to composite images he had captured from the icy German winter, others he took throughout Orange County, San Diego and of course those from the Zoo itself. He compiled images of icicles, permafrost, snow flurries, tropical foliage, stone and sky and melded them together to create an irresistible arctic world in the heart of San Diego. “It felt as if he had already been to these locations we made up, and that just helped to make the work all the less stressful. It hardly felt like work actually. He was as cool as a cucumber the entire shoot, and that helped us to just sit back and stay out of his way,” says writer Di Salvo.

He completed the project with post-production services from Scott Pratt of QAS Productions, Inc. of Venice, CA, and Ralph Hillert of Mainworks, Frankfurt, Germany. The final ads have been posted on billboards throughout Southern California and in the pages of various travel magazines and newspapers. Other work by Stratmann has been recognized in Communication Arts, Luerzer’s Archive, AOP, BFF, NYFestival, ADC and Polaroid Final Art Award.

Stratmann is represented by Shelly Steichen of and you can see more on this project and other work at his site at