Imagine an initial population of two rats growing to more than 482 million in just 36 months, particularly in a large city such as London or New York. How is such a scenario possible? Consider the following: If a rat’s gestation period is 21 to 23 days, the size of a typical litter is five to 10 rat pups, and a rat’s birth cycle is three to six litters in a lifetime, than two rats today could quickly turn into 10 rats in just three months. Extending that same calculation, after one year, those two rats could potentially increase to 1,248 rodents. In 15 months there could be 6,232 rats, and so on, until after three years, nearly a half billion rats could be produced, resulting in a massive rodent problem.

According to a visually powerful marketing campaign developed by the global pest management company, Rentokil, the remarkable reproductive potential of rats, as described above, is definitely possible. Fortunately, real-world factors exist — such as lack of shelter, disease, predation, pest control, in-fighting and cannibalism — that naturally limit such population explosions. Nonetheless, the numbers show just how quickly rats can reproduce under ideal conditions. Presenting the data in a visually compelling fashion via a sophisticated marketing campaign has been an effective way to raise awareness about the public health threat posed by rats.

INCREASING VISIBILITY. From a marketing and awareness perspective, campaigns with eye-catching facts and figures can help raise awareness about pest issues while simultaneously raising the profile of the company behind the numbers. For the Rise of the Rats campaign, Rentokil worked with Builtvisible, a digital marketing agency with experience developing high-profile campaigns. Jennifer Forbes, content marketing consultant at Builtvisible, said Rentokil worked with her company “to conceptualize a campaign that educated and raised awareness around how rat infestations happen and the rate at which they can spread. While information on the topic existed, we spotted an opportunity to bring it to life in an engaging, digestible digital format.”

After posting the Rise of the Rats campaign on Rentokil’s website, Builtvisible “used animated GIFs, images and data stories to generate coverage in publications that aligned with Rentokil’s target audiences, explains Forbes. Using search engine optimization (SEO) and other website marketing strategies, Builtvisible strategically placed a link to the campaign within the rodent section of the Rentokil website. The approach produced effective results with a 688 percent global increase in organic page views related to Rentokil’s rodent-related web pages. Essentially, the campaign allowed Rentokil to appear higher in Google’s search results for certain rodent terms, while also adding value to potential customers searching for information related to the rising rat population. “Digital PR and SEO activity are vital in today’s landscape as they both satisfy demands and needs in a very targeted way,” Forbes says.

GROWING AWARENESS. Aside from being a marketing tool for Rentokil, the Rise of the Rats campaign has been designed to raise awareness about growing rat problems in urban settings. As Judy Black, vice president of technical services for Rentokil Steritech — the North American pest control brand of Rentokil — noted, “We need to be aware of rat activity in our major cities and we need to be addressing it.” The reasons for an increase in rat issues “might be different for different geographies,” Black said. In a large city, for instance, Norway rats tend to breed more frequently and produce larger litters when they have access to multiple sources of food, water and harborage.

“If there isn’t good sanitation discipline in these cities, then you’re going to create a situation where they can maximize their reproductive potential,” said Black. Proper sanitation is critical to the success of any rodent control program in urban settings. Therefore, city officials need to have a plan in place to address rat issues, and not just in commercial settings. Common areas, such as parks, also are affected, as well as abandoned buildings and homes where squatters might have moved in and created sanitation issues that are attractive to rodents. In such situations, rats can cause property damage and they have even been known to cause fires by chewing through electrical wiring. Rats also can contaminate and damage food. Additionally, “Disease is — and certainly should be — a huge concern,” states Black. The disease aspect, though, “is not as understood by the general public as it is with the pest management industry,” she added.

When stories about rodent-related diseases and sicknesses make headlines, this will raise the “issue into public consciousness for awhile,” but this will eventually fade. Thus, pest management professionals should do their part to raise public awareness about problems related to rat populations. As Black noted, “It is our duty as pest management professionals to continue to educate our clients on the issues that rats can cause.”

The author is an Ohio-based writer.