All change: Special Group and Unitec keep it real with innovative new docu-ad campaign

Education is all about aspiration; about the promise of knowledge eventually leading to a better lot for the students and their loved ones. And Special Group’s new ‘Change Starts Here’ brand campaign for the Unitec Institute of Technology aims to tap into that—although in a way not seen before in New Zealand.

Vicky Te Puni

Content has always been king in media. But because advertisers can’t just buy attention as they did in the past, they now need to earn the right to get the attention of consumers—and particularly the younger consumers in Unitec’s crosshairs. As such, content is beginning to look more regal in the world of advertising too and branded content is an increasingly popular way for companies to get those eyeballs.

Special Group was asked to come up with a big idea that broke the education category mould. And the big idea is that the journey of three students—school leaver and future architect Alex Riley, adult design and visual arts student Vicky Te Puni and male nurse Netane Takau—will unfold on air throughout 2011 in a series of 12 60 second ads/mini documentaries. These ads will then go on to form the basis of an hour-long documentary that will screen on TV3 later in the year. Special Group’s creative director Tony Bradbourne says it’s all about creating compelling content that might resonate with potential students, rather than just whipping out another traditional 30 second TV ad. And for him, the most interesting aspect of the project is that it’s an advertiser and a broadcaster working together.

Alex Riley

Given that everything the students go through, good or bad, will be shown in the ad campaign/documentary/reality show, it’s also quite risky. But Unitec executive director marketing and communications Jeanette Paine hopes that by being open and showing what it is really like to study, viewers will respect that honesty and be inspired to make a change too.

Netane Takau

“We wanted a creative approach that would shift people’s perceptions of Unitec, raise awareness and align with our brand values of being real, inventive and immersive,” she says. “People choose to study at Unitec to make a change in their own lives and that of their family and whanau. The year-long documentary approach will allow our students to talk openly about their hopes, what inspires them and the challenges they face.”

Film maker Andy Morton of Film Construction is shooting the campaign and aims to portray each student in the most unguarded and natural way (the first commercials air on Sunday night). And media agency, media360, has negotiated a comprehensive deal with MediaWorks for the brand campaign.

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