On Sunday night, MediaWorks unveiled the four couples that will gain palm calluses, lose sleep and drink copious cups of Wild Bean Coffee during the third season of The Block NZ.
Since first hitting Kiwi screens in 2011, The Block has been a major ratings coup for MediaWorks. And this was clearly evidenced during last year’s finale, which was watched by an average of 683,500 Kiwis, a 39 percent increase from season one’s 491,600.
Given these solid numbers, MediaWorks plans to give the new season a strong promotional push, as the contestants ready themselves to renovate a quartet of homes in the Auckland suburb of Point Chevalier.
In addition to the two-minute introductory video that was aired during the primetime X Factor Australia slot on Sunday, MediaWorks has also released a series of four videos that give each couple some additional screen time.
Amanda Wilson, the MediaWorks TV head of marketing and publicity, says that emphasis has been placed on the contestants because personalities have driven the popularity of the show in previous seasons.
“One thing we’ve learned is that it is all about the teams – each season New Zealand has fallen in love with certain team members,” she says. “In 2012, Spicy Tysie was a crowd favourite, and last year we just couldn’t keep up with the fans wanting Pete and Andy baseball caps. Yes, we have our predictions – but we can’t wait to see how our viewers react this year.”
To ensure that suitable people are cast to appear in the show, MediaWorks undertakes an extensive selection process before settling on the participants.
“Selecting the right talent is critical to the show’s success but it’s an editorial decision rather than a marketing one,” says MediaWorks TV’s head of commissioning Sue Woodfield. “We had thousands of applicants for this year’s series. The group was narrowed down through a process of interviews to a final 10 teams, who came to Auckland for an intensive two-day audition. We look for a broad range of people, and it’s great to have variety when it comes to things like age, background, DIY ability and type of relationship – but in the end, the best talent wins out.”
This year, all four teams consist of a male-female combination (a repeat of the first season’s casting), but Woodfield says that this wasn’t an intentional move.
“We didn’t anticipate casting four male-female couples this year, but they were the best talent and ultimately that’s what counts – people who have that special something which reaches through the screen to connect with viewers at home.”
And to ensure that the opportunity to connect with the contestants doesn’t pass any potential viewers by, MediaWorks is distributing its marketing message across its offering.
“The marketing team works closely with key departments across the company to bring The Block NZ campaign to life across the different MediaWorks TV, Radio and Interactive assets,” says Wilson. “We are also running an extensive external campaign including print and outdoor media, and have some exciting activations to reveal in coming weeks.”
From a print perspective, MediaWorks has established a partnership with Bauer-owned Your Home and Garden through the appointment of editor Shelley Ferguson as a judge on the competition. This will see the show getting quite a few column inches in the publication, while Bauer will no doubt also be pleased to see one of its editors Kiwi TV screens several times a week.
As was the case with TVNZ’s Blacksand doing the promotional work for the upcoming season of the Amazing Race, most of the promotional work for The Block has been done at MediaWorks by an in-house creative team led by Ant Farac, who was recently also involved in the launch of the Edge TV (the in-house crew also received assistance from Commotion, and Spark PHD managed Media). And according to Wilson, the team isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty.
“We used 150 litres of Dulux paint to make the [TV] promo – we really only had one chance per letter to get the paint pouring right, so did a lot of testing and experimentation before the shoot. It got more than a little messy!”
The paint-splashing theme has been incorporated on billboard artwork as well as on the TV3 hub dedicated to the show. But the online marketing execution doesn’t end with colourful branding.
This year, viewers—so-called Block-a-holics—can also enter a completion via the website to stand a chance of appearing on the show.
“We can’t give too much away at this stage, but as with other seasons of The Block NZ there will be plenty of opportunities for viewers to engage with the show and teams,” says Wilson. [And] the most dedicated Block-a-holic will be guaranteed a walk-on role and special opportunities to see the houses.”
Wilson says that the decision to create a platform for greater audience involvement came about because the show has been able to build a substantial fan base “from scratch”.
“We now have 60,000+ cherished and highly engaged Block-a-holics who help tell The Block story and drive social talk during the show, cementing The Block’s position as must-watch, event television. Ensuring these viewers are kept engaged and rewarded for their support by way of special content and opportunities is key to our marketing strategy.”
Apart from high viewership numbers and a loyal fan base, the past two seasons of the show were also typified by extensive in-episode product placement, a policy that one of New Zealand’s only taxpayer-funded satirists Ben Uffindell jibed on his website, The Civilian.
Satirical remarks from the aspiring politician have however done little to dissuade the MediaWorks TV team from integrating products into the programming, and the broadcaster’s director of sales and marketing Liz Fraser says that this is set to continue in the new season.
“Broadcast sponsor Bunnings Warehouse is back for the third year, as are programme partners Kiwibank and Wild Bean Cafe, and this year we've welcomed new programme partner Honda to the family,” says Fraser. “And, of course, our contestants also need paint, furnishings, and other supplies – this year, we have great support from suppliers Dulux, Freedom Furniture, New World, Haier [which trades under Fisher & Paykel] and Peter Hay Kitchens.”
Given that the policy was incorporated successfully throughout the previous two seasons, it is unlikely to provoke the ire of fans sufficiently to cause them to turn off the television.
However, a greater challenge might exist in ensuring that viewer fatigue doesn’t set in over the course of the season. To ensure that viewers stay interested, MediaWorks may have to introduce some new elements to keep the viewers engaged and interested. Then again, this might not be a problem, given that the Kiwi appetite for DIY porn sometimes seems insatiable.
Head of Marketing Amanda Wilson
Creative Director Ant Farac
Director Shay Logan
Art and Stills Director Juita Tambunan
TV3 Brand Manager Rebecca Saunders/Reuben Wiremu
Assistant Brand Manager Jay Patel
Marketing Assistant Lily Kingston
Assistant Director / DIT Mikee Carpinter @ Commotion
VFX Artist / Supervisor Lakshman Anandanayagam @ Creature Post
Producer Matiu Sadd @ Commotion
DOP Warren Green
Photographer Steve Tilley
Gaffer Karl Saunders
Camera Assistant Drew Wright
Sound Recordist Jeremy Lawry
Set Art Director Greg Skinner @ Rollercoaster
Art Dept Aaron Tomlinson @ Rollercoaster
Make Up Artist Kath Gould
Stylist Rachel Morton
Safety Officer Shane @ Guard