Whether it took place in the McDonalds carpark, behind the bikesheds or on your wedding night with candles, rose petals and Kenny G, the first time is a big occasion. And TVNZ's new online social experiment aims to find out a little bit more about the nation's sexual history by getting users to plot the location where they lost (or perhaps misplaced) their virginity.
The online Virginity Map was created to promote TV2's local drama Go Girls and was AIM Proximity's response to a brief asking for an engaging and fun way to allow fans to get to know the characters and interact with the show (are we witnessing a lowest common denominator theme in the national broadcaster's promotions?).
South Pacific Pictures, the makers of the show, wrote the biographical information for each of the core characters and their pins/sins can also be seen. And viewers – who must be of age to register – can also 'drop a pin' (euphemism alert!) on the map and show the world where they lost their innocence. And joyous (or horrible) memories of the experience, anonymous or otherwise, can also be added.
Bridget Snelling, TVNZ brand and business marketing manager, says New Zealanders, somewhat surprisingly, seem to like talking about their making of proverbial whoopee.
"The Go Girls site is enjoying a spectacular traffic boost around the Virginity Tracker launch, representing more than 12,000 page impressions last Sunday, which is on top of ramping numbers behind the regular TVNZ Go Girls site."
The average user session duration is at at two and a half minutes and the Go Girls Facebook page added 3,025 fans (up to a total of 11,221, which is getting close to Shortland Street levels) and had 581 wall posts, comments and likes. And this, Snelling says, shows the application is doing its job and creating engagement.
"Most people love it, some don’t, but there's no major outrage," she says. "And it’s connecting with the audience, which is the point."
AIM Proximity creative director Michael Barnfield says Go Girls is extremely popular with women in their 30s, even more so than the age group portrayed in the programme.
“For these viewers the website becomes more of an element of nostalgia, and we’ve found that our female audience, and plenty of men too, are only too willing to relive their 'first time' now that the memory is at a safe distance.”
TVNZ general manager of marketing Charlotte Findlay says viral marketing, alongside more traditional media, is an increasingly important tool to get viewers and particularly young viewers, to engage with content. She didn't mention, however, that viral marketing seems to take on a new, slightly more repulsive meaning when it has to do with the exchange of bodily fluids.
"TVNZ is committed to bringing New Zealanders content they can dive into when they want, where they want," she says. "We see online applications like this one as an extension of that philosophy, so you'll see us doing more and more of this sort of activity."
TV2 marketing manager Aimee Glucina says the potentially controversial site was intended to enhance viewers' experience of the show.
"While there have been specific episodes that deal with the characters losing their virginity, the site is meant as a bonus for fans of the show; a light-hearted and harmless way for our viewers to have a bit of fun . . .We know that the Virginity Map is a little risqué, but so is the show. We feel that the tone of the site is fun, tongue in cheek, and captures the fun, flirty nature of Go Girls."
Staying on the digital tip, Reservoir Hill, an exclusively online drama where viewers were able to interact with the main character, has been awarded New Zealand’s first International Digital Emmy Award in the Children and Young People category. Adding to the joy, the award was dished out by dreamboat studhunk Jason Priestley.
TVNZ's general manager of digital media Tom Cotter says the award "proves TVNZ's ability to innovate on a world stage".
"I couldn't be happier for the team who worked on the project: the production company KHF Media, TVNZ's Digital Media and New Zealand On Air, all of whom are an exceptional and passionate bunch of people."
David Stubbs and Thomas Robins, the production masterminds from KHF Media behind the concept, were at the ceremony in Cannes to pick up the Emmy.
International Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences president Bruce Paisner praised the innovative interactive element to Reservoir Hill.
"This year's winners have masterfully demonstrated how to enhance the viewers' multi-platform experience," he says.
Reservoir Hill was consistently one of the most viewed shows on TVNZ Ondemand during its eight-week run and followed 16-year-old Beth Connolly (played by Beth Chote) as she arrives in a mysterious new town where nothing is quite as it seems. Comments on social networking site Bebo helped to drive the story forward, and viewers could send text messages to Beth offering her advice after each episode. The messages were then reflected in the weekly drama, as well as in Beth's video blogs.
For those who missed out first time round, Reservoir Hill will screen as a feature-length event on TV2 on 16 May at 12.00pm. It is still available to view Ondemand at www.tvnz.co.nz/reservoirhill.