It’s a wrap: New Zealand stricken with severe case of Hobbit fever

  • Marketing
  • November 26, 2012
  • Deirdre Robert
It’s a wrap: New Zealand stricken with severe case of Hobbit fever

Amid the controversy that seems to have attached itself to the release of the first Hobbit film, Wellingtonians in particular will be hard-pressed to forget the premiere is taking place in their city, not least thanks to the two-storey Middle Earth wrap that’s been attached to the side of Clemenger BBDO’s Wellington office. That’s one more Hobbit-themed gesture to add to a growing list that also includes DraftFCB’s baggage carousel at Wellington airport, Air New Zealand's Hobbit aircraft and, of course, Tourism New Zealand's 100% Middle-earth. 

Clemenger’s giant creation, featuring a towering mountain surrounded by roaring waterfalls, was created as a labour of love, with the agency donating its time and talent for free to bring the building to life.  

“Wellington is the creative capital of New Zealand, so we wanted to do something special with the eyes of the world upon us,” comments Clemenger’s executive creative director, Philip Andrew. 

With 100,000 expected to turn out for the upcoming premiere, managing director Andrew Holt says the agency decided to create the perfect backdrop for the spectacle.

“In a typical movie premiere they bring the film to a city, but we thought Wellington doesn’t do typical so let’s do something that puts the city in the middle of Middle-earth.”

Clemenger’s wrap coincides with DraftFCB’s Hobbit-themed baggage carousel unveiled last week at Wellington airport (The Dull Men's club would not be pleased with this extravagance). That’s on top of another Wellington airport installation, the 14-metre long, 3-metre high Weta Workshop sculpture of Gollum, which was unveiled in October. And while we’re on the subject of airports, don’t forget Air New Zealand’s Hobbit-inspired safety video and, as unveiled over the weekend, its official Hobbit aircraft, which features a 73-metre long image featuring the film’s cast. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eiHET7UjnoSo there's plenty riding on the fact that Jackson and co. haven't made a stinker. 

Take a stroll to Wellington’s Embassy Theatre and you shall not pass without being greeted by a nine-metre Gandalf statue standing guard. Then there’s the 14 rather large dwarves that have taken residence atop the New Zealand Post House on Wellington’s waterfront. And there's even a Middle-earth market running in Waitangi park this week. 

In August this year, Tourism New Zealand debuted the beautifully shot ‘100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand" campaign, the work of Whybin\TBWA and Curious Film. 

But all the hype has been marred by a fair dose of controversy. According to this story on stuff.co.nz, documents released under the Official Information Act show that Tourism New Zealand “sought approval from Warner Bros. for every aspect of its $10m 'Middle-earth' marketing campaign, even checking with the film studio over issues that did not directly concern it”.

The campaign’s “pure” references have also been subject to scrutiny by environmentalists, with senior lecturer in environmental science at Massey University, Mike Joy, likening New Zealand’s clean and green image as "fantastical as dragons and wizards" in a New York Timesarticle  (of course it’s not the first time the “pure” brand has been subject to scrutiny, as evidenced by BBC’s Stephen Sackur grilling of John key last year).

Another New York Times article, which is well worth a read, probes the many facets involved in making the movie and keeping production in Enzed, including the extent to which John Key and the New Zealand Government are in Warner Brothers’ pocket. After all, the labour dispute that marred the films' production a couple of year’s back was resolved, but it involved Key urgently passing changes to labour laws in Parliament in 2010, and a $25m tax break for Warner Brothers. 

More recently, allegations of animal abuse and JRR Tolkein’s estate suing Hobbit producers for $98m over merchandise copyright infringements continue to put Jackson and his clan through the ringer.  

But while The Hobbit’s battles look to not be reserved exclusively to the fantastical on-screen world, stakeholders probably won’t be too perturbed, so long as the film performs. Judging by ticket pre-sales in the US, which have The Hobbit outselling Sky Fall and Twilight, the first film at least looks set to do just that.

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