Let's get it on: Maritime NZ and DraftFCB go back to the '80s for summer safety campaign

  • Advertising
  • December 9, 2013
  • Ben Fahy
Let's get it on: Maritime NZ and DraftFCB go back to the '80s for summer safety campaign

While most Kiwi boaties now carry life jackets on their vessel, they're only worn 70 percent of the time, largely due to an erroneous belief that they’ll be able to whip them out and put them on if they get into trouble. So Maritime NZ and DraftFCB have attempted to illustrate the ridiculousness of the carrying-but-not-wearing scenario by harnessing the immense power of the ‘80s buddy cop drama. 

14 people died in recreational boating accidents in New Zealand waters last year, and by the end of September this year a further 12 people had died. But Maritime NZ says three-quarters of those deaths could have been avoided had basic steps like wearing life jackets been taken. Its latest research shows that men aged 40 plus are the least likely to zip up on the water, despite 90 percent of boating fatalities being men. And the life jacket-wearing stats decrease significantly for those in powered and non-powered vessels. So the summer safety campaign, 'Get it on or it's no good', draws on this research to deliver the message that having a life jacket on board won’t save them or their mates if things go wrong because it’s near impossible to put a life jacket on when you’re in the water.  

Legally, boats must carry "a correctly sized, serviceable life jacket (also known as a personal flotation device or PFD) for each person on board a pleasure boat in New Zealand". But the law doesn’t require them to be worn. Some councils have bylaws to that effect for smaller vessels and Auckland Council is currently looking at implementing a bylaw that would make it compulsory to wear life jackets on boats less than 6m (but, as evidence of the challenge Maritime NZ faces with its mission to get more people wearing life jackets, some boaties are kicking up a stink about it).

These behaviour change campaigns are slow burners but DraftFCB planner Emma Popping says attitudes are changing, with many younger boaties now wearing life jackets more regularly and many boaties now putting life jackets on their kids. But the 40 something male who goes out with their mates and thinks they’re bulletproof is still proving difficult to convince (macabre fact: a lot of dead boaties are found with their flies down because they often fall off the boat when nature is calling). 

She says it knows this audience has a resistance to government messages. So, like some of the other current social marketing campaigns, which use humour to disarm audiences and try to get viewers to recognise their foolish behaviour by actually showing it in action, this campaign was about finding a way to get an important message across without being preachy. 

Creative agencies are often criticised for not being close enough to coalface of their clients' businesses, but the DraftFCB team now knows first hand how quickly it can happen because in the middle of this year they were taken out on the water by Maritime NZ and put into a tinny. Then the plug was pulled to see how they would cope without life jackets. And the answer: not well, just like those in who are involved in a capsizing or swamping, which accounts for 85 percent of boating accidents. 

Plenty of clients would probably like to do that to their agency, and DraftFCB’s executive creative director Tony Clewett says it was the epitome of an “immersive planning experience”.

The ad itself is part PSA, part tribute to the kind of shows and movies that the target audience grew up watching, like Miami Vice, Tango and Cash and Lethal Weapon. Creative team Freddie Coltart and Matt Williams say the use of a partner is something all these 40 plus guys can relate to and understand (and, given the enduring appeal of the '80s, it should also appeal to younger viewers). Adam Stevens from Robber’s Dog was at the directorial helm and they did everything possible to replicate the look and feel of the '80s, from the original tune to the slightly out of sync voiceovers. 

As the Maritime NZ release says: "Joe Bro is wearing his bulletproof vest but, strangely, Brandon just carries his in one hand as they leap off a boat, take out a baddie, bust through a door and jump through a window. The closing scene sees Brandon shot by one of the mobsters while he attempts, too late, to put on his vest. Joe Bro is left holding his best mate as he breathes his last."

So was there any danger that the core boat safety message would get lost in the melee, especially given there's nothing particularly nautical about the ad? Clewett says Maritime NZ did say “where are the boats, where are the fishermen?” when the idea was first presented. But it understood that it needed to do something different to capture attention.  

DraftFCB’s research into New Zealand’s cultural codes informs a lot of its work and of the seven Kiwi codes, mateship and humour are the big ones featuring this campaign, Clewett saysUnfortunately, the mateship doesn’t last too long, but the next phase of the campaign features Joe Bro revelling in his continued existence, swanning about with lycra-clad ‘80s babes and generally looking cool in his life jacket in some great shots by Steven Boniface. As well as TV, the campaign features radio, print, online and mobile executions and Joe Bro will also appear on MetService’s new marine weather mobile app. There’s even some bribery involved, with the Pay Day idea offering life jacket-wearing fishermen who appear in the reader's sections of a fishing magazine a load of free bait.

"We noticed in the on readers sections that on average there was only one person wearing a life jacket in a double page spread," says Williams. "We thought it was quite a weird thing for a fishing magazine to be promoting this bad behaviour." 

Free safe boating packs will be available at Z and Caltex stations around the country over the summer boating season, or boaties can click here to request a pack online.

While the 'Don’t be a clown – wear a life jacket’ campaign that's run over the past two summers didn't make it on too many favourite campaign lists, Ipsos research showed that 75 percent of boaties said they took some action after seeing the ad, and 29 percent said they’re now wearing their lifejacket on a regular basis.

By the numbers
Research commissioned by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) shows that people who wear life jackets on the water are more likely to survive if something goes wrong.
Not wearing a life jacket is the leading risk factor for boating fatalities. The other key risks are: not carrying communications, not checking the weather, and drinking alcohol.
Three-quarters of those who die in recreational boating accidents each year could have been saved had they been wearing a life jacket. 
Men aged 40 plus are over-represented in recreational boating fatalities. Qualitative research suggests their “bulletproof” attitude to safety is the main issue.
Everyone on board a boat less than 6 metres should wear a life jacket at all times. Most accidents occur suddenly with no warning – there may be no time to grab a life jacket, and it is extremely difficult to put on a life jacket in the water. Many boaties drown less than 200 metres from shore.





Education and Comms Manager - Pania Shingleton

Senior Education and Comms Advisor - Sarah Brazil




James Mok


Tony Clewett and Regan Grafton


Freddie Coltart – Art Director

Matt Williams – Copywriter


Pip Mayne


Kelly Gillard


Paul Irwin – General Manager / Wgtn

Laura Davies – Account Executive


David Thomason – Head of Planning

Emma Popping – Planner


Nick McFarlane / Nick Smith – Draft FCB Craft Department


Rufus Chuter – Communications Planning Director

Daniel Currin – Media Manager

Shreya Parker – Planner/Buyer

Braden Dawson – Digital Planner/Buyer

Moniquea Frear – Media Buyer



Robbers Dog


Adam Stevens


Mark Foster


Caz Hearn


Ian McCarroll


Tim Mauger



Pete Ritchie / Blockhead


Stefan Coory / Blockhead



Liquid Studios


Craig Matuschka





Peter van der Fluit / Liquid Studios


Sarah Yetton



Match Photography


Steven Boniface


Emily Moon / Kate Bridges



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