With the NZRU's increasingly commercial approach, seeing All Blacks on our TV screens endorsing something isn't particularly unusual these days. But the problem is that they're often forced to act and, as most know very well, rugby players don't make particularly good actors. Thankfully, Ford and JWT have avoided that trap with the AB35 campaign, which lets the lads design their very own pimped out Fiesta with the help of the Ford team.
JWT's managing director Simon Lendrum says it was important for the galaxy of rugby stars—and the staff—to be themselves through the process. And, anecdotally, it's gone very well, with really good engagement on the website and with the weekly webisodes and plenty of mystery and intrigue to keep them interested until the big reveal on Sunday.
"The beauty of this was that it wasn't scripted. It was just letting them have fun with the product, so they could enjoy it and interact with it... Ford has been sponsoring the All Blacks for 17 years, so it was about time to do something special; to do more than just an ad campaign."
Hosted by James Coleman, the collaborative project is in line with the noticeable trend towards reality-based advertising seen recently from the likes of Fisher & Paykel and, to a lesser degree, Holden, where the TV ads aim to show off the company, the products and people who work there, with content typically housed on an online portal.
It's also in line with Ford's approach internationally. It's suffered through some torrid financial times during the Great Depression, but it has been lauded for its impressive use of social media and, with a range of tech-additions and gimmicks, the Ford Fiesta has found favour with the yoof in Europe and, after a concerted effort, in the US.
There will be 35 of the finished All Black cars and they will be available to buy at dealerships around the country, with one of them auctioned off on Trade Me.
And in what could be seen as the exact opposite of the Ford campaign, JWT has also just launched the latest instalment of Nestle's Milky Bar Kid series, featuring a tri-lingual Maori girl from Rotorua.