Review: Air New Zealand, ‘Kiwi Sceptics’
A certain genre of tourism advertising uses neighbourhood rivalries as its fulcrum. For instance, a widely publicised 2009 PR campaign by Tourism Victoria played on negative images of Sydney blokes to lure Sydney single ladies to Melbourne.
It has come to Air New Zealand’s attention that some Australians would never consider New Zealand as a holiday destination. They think it’s only for extreme sports, or old people, or horrible, horrible dance music. And anyway – if their country is so great, then why are there so many Kiwis here?
Host Sydney has created this ‘online reality TV show’, which launched on 13 February. Chirpily narrated by Rhys Darby (Murray from Flight of the Conchords), it tricks four real Australians – the ‘Aussie bloke’, the ‘Bali girl’, the ‘Europhile’ and the ‘hipster’ – into thinking they’re heading off to tempting overseas holiday destinations, but diverts them to New Zealand, where they’re buddied up with a local whose values fit their own, and who acts as their guide.
Aside from Darby’s very witty narration (which has a touch of Terry Wogan’s Eurovision commentary), the smartest aspect of the series is the way its narrative is built around brand hostility rather than ‘traditional’ tourist appeals (which we still see in the opening seconds of each video). It’s fascinating to see these people thrown into a situation they don’t want to be in and transformed into brand advocates – at the same time demonstrating the range of experiences New Zealand can offer. Clearly they’re setting it up for a second series in which the four protagonists return to New Zealand with their friends and families.
That said, I felt the most convincing executions are ‘Aussie Aussie’ and ‘Hipster’. The ‘Europhile’ lady still seemed stiff and unconvinced by the end, and the ‘Bali Girl’ was never a really likeable presence – too much of a princess. But the two blokes’ objections to New Zealand are instantly recognisable, as are their reactions.
The Hipster video, in particular, is much more knowing about the way many people targeted by this term – and young people, more generally – reject being called ‘hipsters’ and being wooed by ad campaigns obviously framed as ‘cool’.
It’s this recognisability – as well as the frisson of trans-Tasman rivalry – that will lead to these videos being shared socially.
More overt ‘social networking’ mechanisms of the campaign include a microsite hosted at nineMSN, and further social media activity on Twitter and Facebook, where you’re encouraged to “dob in a sceptic” for the chance to win a trip to New Zealand for the pair of you.
In a media environment where consumers are always willing to use marketing campaigns to turn on the brands in question, Air New Zealand has created something genuinely likeable from a negative sentiment, and it wears its branding lightly and unselfconsciously. The only bad thing I can really say about ‘Kiwi Sceptics’ is that I didn’t like some of the protagonists – but hey, that reflects poorly on Australia, not New Zealand.
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