MasterChef juggernaut keeps on rollin’ as controversial season three ups the eyeballs—UPDATED

  • Media
  • June 14, 2012
  • StopPress Team
MasterChef juggernaut keeps on rollin’ as controversial season three ups the eyeballs—UPDATED

Over 2.6 million New Zealanders tuned in to watch series three of MasterChef New Zealand, with an average 590,000 Kiwis aged five-plus watching every week making for a nine percent increase on season two and a 14 percent increase on season one. And the producers have had to clear up some confusion when a bit of social media Chinese whispering took hold after some unmentioned goings on in the final came to viewers’ attention. 

Auckland marketing executive Chelsea Winter, who works at finance company Heartland NZ, was named as the winner and took home over $100,000 worth of prizes after beating fellow finalist Ana Schwarz in four challenges (Countdown is already getting its pound of flesh and is running an ad featuring her and one of the current Smart Shopper mascots and past MasterChef Brett McGregor).

The special two-hour episode (watch it here) topped the ratings in One’s 25- 54 target demographic, achieving 19 percent and making it the highest rating episode of any show on the channel to date this year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQP3rkyswSA

“MasterChef New Zealand has proven yet again that audiences love big, bold and entertaining locally-made television,” says head of TV ONE and TV2, Jeff Latch. “The series is fast becoming a Kiwi classic, and with MasterChef NZ four about to go into production, is certain to remain so.”

Nark-gate‘ certainly added to the drama this season, and a few accusations of favouritism for what many believe was the more marketable contestant were also made on social media, with claims that Winter received an extra 15 minutes on top of the three hours to complete the ‘tortuous trifle’. That wasn’t mentioned in the show, but a statement on the MasterChef Facebook page from TVNZ, production company Imagination and the two contestants said: “At the end of the three hours neither of us were in a position to plate up and present our trifles to a standard we were happy with. When the producers offered us both the same time extension to complete the challenge, we accepted.”

With increasing audience numbers, the numerous partners of the show, including Fisher & Paykel, Skoda, Campbells and Stevens, will no doubt be pleased their commercial messages are getting in front of more New Zealanders (especially the more powerful ‘integrated’ messages in the show). And, as discussed in this case study that was written by Lesley Springall for ThinkTV, Progressive Enterprises’ connection with the show was a major part of its strategy to help bring its three existing brands into one Countdown brand.

“We knew we had to take New Zealanders on a journey to what we essentially considered a whole new brand,” says Bridget Lamont, General Manager Marketing at Countdown. Lamont and her colleagues had started to lay the groundwork for building a relationship between the new Countdown and its customers, but they knew they needed to do more.

“We really needed to grow people’s relationship with the brand, but you can’t do that unless people are going to emotionally connect – and MasterChef was that opportunity for us.”

The fit was good, but it was also a big leap to go in all guns blazing and do a fully-integrated campaign, making the television show and everything in it and around it a central pillar of Countdown’s marketing strategy.

“It was a big risk because Countdown as a brand in New Zealand at the time was very different to what MasterChef stands for. Here people were still trying to get over that Countdown was not this big-box, warehouse supermarket anymore,” says Sally Copland, Countdown’s Business Manager Brand. “We wanted to be fully integrated because we knew that the show could really help us talk about the quality and the range at Countdown.”

The Countdown brand is fully integrated into the fabric of TVNZ’s MasterChef NZ.

Countdown went all out to own MasterChef and ensure its brand was synonymous with the choice, quality and inspiration MasterChef provided. The brand was fully integrated into the programme with the Countdown Pantry, the Countdown clock and references to Countdown.

There were a host of different advertisements supporting the sponsorship, both standalone and involving Countdown’s own TV family The Colemans. The MasterChef brand was rolled out through online initiatives and in-store where staff wore MasterChef-branded T-shirts and, later, aprons. After the first series more than 73% of MasterChef viewers were aware Countdown was the principal sponsor. Today recall is up to 94%.

The relationship between Countdown and MasterChef continues to evolve with past contestants now fronting Countdown’s Smart Shopper initiatives.

Now on to its third series, the sponsorship initiatives have evolved even further with the success of the partnership. The winner of the first MasterChef series, Brett McGregor and finalist of the second series, Jax Hamilton have taken over Countdown’s regular Smart Shopper slots and have produced a range of “How to” videos for YouTube to help budding master chefs with the basics. Also the spin-off show, MasterChef Masterclass, featuring recipes from Masterchef judges, promotes what’s currently in season at Countdown.

Not everything has worked. An online game introduced for series two was dropped in favour of the “How to” videos for series three. Recipes have been simplified and one episode in series two which required a contestant to rush out to the nearest Countdown store to get an ingredient was considered a step too far, admits Alistair Duff, TVNZ’s [ex] General Manager of Media Sales.

“Things work when they don’t feel forced; when they make sense to the show.”

Countdown’s customers are asked at the end of each series what they like. Countdown also holds regular focus groups, reviews opinions and discussions online and has an online research panel to track what people think about the brand. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Countdown’s market share has increased, how people see the brand has vastly improved and, proving that emotional connection, Countdown’s Facebook fans have shot up from 33,000 to 115,000 in less than a year.

“We’ve added and we’ve refined as the shows have continued because we’ve got better at it,” says Copland. “This is a campaign that touches everything we do.”

Copland admits it wouldn’t have been possible to achieve what the company’s achieved without TVNZ’s television show. “It’s subtle: the same time that people are being entertained, they are being exposed to Countdown as a new, modern-day supermarket concept. Television gives us that core; that core content, that core idea that we want to communicate to our consumers. We want to inspire people to be master chefs in their own kitchens. We could have chosen to be in the show and do nothing more about it. But that’s not actually connecting us to what we do for New Zealand consumers when it comes to food.”

For integration to work well it has to be a no-holds-barred partnership between broadcaster, programme producer and advertiser, says Duff. “Television delivers the mass eyeballs, but what next? That’s what a good integrated partnership is about; really understanding what the client wants to do and helping them get there. Smart advertisers know you have to leverage it and smart broadcasters should be able to help advertisers to do that. The reach of television today goes far beyond the screen.”

Integrated television campaigns are in a process of evolution in New Zealand, says Duff, but there’s still a long, long way to go. “If you do it well, it might cost a little more, but the returns are infinitely higher than just putting your billboard around something.”

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