'We knew we needed an All Black' – Change the NZ Flag's Lewis Holden on reaching as many Kiwis as possible

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  • February 19, 2016
  • Damien Venuto
'We knew we needed an All Black' – Change the NZ Flag's Lewis Holden on reaching as many Kiwis as possible

This week, a Change the NZ Flag campaign video showing rugby star Dan Carter supporting the change vote quickly reverberated across news media before eventually becoming a discussion point on social media. 

While other high-profile New Zealanders such as Silver Fern Maria Tutaia, New Zealander of the year finalist Rob Fenwick and Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown also appeared in the spot, it was again the strength of the All Black’s brand that attracted all the attention.

The pulling power of the nation’s rugby stars is why brands consistently look to latch onto the players. And the strategy works. 

Of the top ten most watched ads on YouTube last year, two featured All Blacks as the protagonists. And of all the videos watched most by Kiwis, the only local clip to feature in the top ten was Air New Zealand’s ‘Safety Defenders’ clip.

Adidas, Air New Zealand, Jockey, Plumbing World, ASB and AIG are just some of the brands that see the All Blacks as a means to reach as many Kiwis as possible. And this was something Change th NZ Flag was also hoping to tap into with its campaign video. 

“We knew we needed an All Black,” says Change the NZ Flag chairman Lewis Holden, who has been campaigning for a flag change since 2003. 

He says the organisers originally approached Richie McCaw, but he didn’t want to appear in the clip on account of having been nominated for the New Zealander of the Year.

“Fortunately, he came out and supported the change after winning the award in any case,” Holden says.

Holden says that Carter’s involvement came about quite serendipitously. 

“Everyone knows everyone in New Zealand. And we were asking around, and Dan Carter ended up being the brother-in-law of one of the people we were talking to.”

Holden says there have been some claims that Carter was paid to appear in the clip, but he rejects this, saying that no one was remunerated for their involvement.
Another accusation is that it’s a piece of propaganda for National Party. However, Holden says Change the NZ Flag enjoys cross-partisan participation from most of the nation’s political parties.

While the media focused on Carter, his cameo accounts for only a few brief seconds in the over-two-minute video. 

Holden says the thinking behind the creative idea was always to feature prominent voices across politics, sport, science and the environment among others.

After the idea came to fruition, Holden approached Wellington-based production company Propeller to pull everything together—a process that culminated in a busy few days for the company.

As the campaign bounced around social media yesterday, many commented that they wanted a new flag but not that flag.   

For some, this would no doubt have been a reference to Red Peak, which, despite all the social hype, failed to make the final two. 

In a particularly memorable analysis of Red Peak, writer Oliver Chan called it a “middle-class gang patch,” which only managed to attract 8.7 percent of the vote in the first round. 

“Red Peak has come to represent a symbolic divide between an upper-middle class social bubble and the public at large,” he said in the post.  

“Though our passion for Red Peak is genuine, we misread the situation because we can be insular and sometimes condescending towards those who don’t share our tastes.”

If anything, the failure of Red Peak hinted strongly that the referendum to be held in March would be decided in middle New Zealand, rather than in a Ponsonby coffee shop or social media bubbles. And using the face of one of the most recognisable All Blacks isn’t a bad way reach—and, perhaps, influence—that broad group of voters. 

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