Ghost Chips come back to haunt AXIS judges once again as the people’s favourite takes TVC of the Year title

Youtube Video NZTA, Clemenger BBDO and The Sweet Shop’s Legend campaign became something of a pop cultural phenomenon when it was released last year, with a couple of lines quickly becoming part of the Kiwi vernacular, t-shirts bearing images of Ghost Chips being worn around the country, and hundreds of parodies, spoof ads and TradeMe auctions referencing the original. And while all those involved in its creation are still smarting a little after the most talked about ad of 2011 went home without any gold at the AXIS awards, it appears there is some justice in the world, because it quite rightly received 11 percent of the vote to win the StopPress/ThinkTV TVC of the Year.

Since the start of the road safety programme in the early ’90s, Philip Andrew, executive creative director at Clemenger BBDO, says the attitude of most New Zealanders to drink driving has gone from one of ‘that poor bastard got caught drink driving’ to ‘that asshole got caught drink driving’. But there are certain niche audiences where that message hasn’t quite got through, namely young drivers and particularly young Maori drivers.

NZTA’s advertising manager Rachel Prince says it was “the first time in a long time it had specifically targeted young Maori drivers”, but it was certainly warranted because they’re a big part of the problem: over 40 percent of all drink-driving crashes involve drivers under the age of 24, 82 percent of drinking drivers in all fatal or serious injury-related crashes in 2008-2010 were male, and 34 percent of those were Maori.

She says the team didn’t explicitly plan to do things differently and move away from the classic themes of blood, guts, shock and vilification. It planned to find the best way to speak to the target audience and help change their behaviour. And as the entertaining case study video below says, whenever there was an ad full of dead fullas, this group just switched off. So they realised early on that it needed to be funny, both to give the message some traction and to give the young target audience a way to tell someone who may have had more mana than them that they were too drunk to drive without getting, as Andrew says, “a punch in the hooter”.

Youtube VideoAndrew says the script was rewritten a number of times before shooting to make sure they got it right—and get it right they most certainly did—but when asked why it became so popular, he says it was just one of those magical moments you occasionally get in advertising when “everything was right”.

The ‘I’ve been internalising a really complicated situation in my head’ line was something Andrew heard many years ago (he grew up on the East Coast near Gisborne) and he’d kept it stashed away in his creative glovebox until he had an opportunity to use it. And the ghost chips were an “injection of genius” from Sweet Shop director Steve Ayson. Prince says the creative conception from the Clemenger BBDO team was brilliant and the ad libbing on set from the cast also helped get the tone right.

While there’s no doubt the ad managed to capture plenty of attention (it’s closing in on two million views on the official NZTA YouTube channel and it was the one of the biggest internet memes of 2011 in New Zealand), is it actually stopping young people—and specifically young Maori people—from drink driving?

Andrew says all the road safety advertising is extensively tested to check for effectiveness and this ad is “going really, really well”, both in terms of its performance and the ‘wear out factor’. And while Prince says it’s too early to see any behaviourial changes, as it’s just one campaign in a series that has been running for many years and advertising alone doesn’t change behaviour, anecdotally, at least, she says the target audience is using the humour in the ad to speak up about drunk driving.

Advertising and pop culture have long intersected and Andrew points out that campaigns like Mainland’s ‘Good things take time’, the ‘Let’s Buy it’ line for ANZ Serious Saver (which he helped create) or even the phrase Clayton’s Drink (“the drink you have when you’re not having a drink”) also became part of the Kiwi furniture—and they did so at a time when word of mouth was something that was actually spread by mouths, rather than by social media. But for him, nothing else he’s done in his career has had this much impact.

That’s also the case for Prince and while the target audience liked it, found it relevant and identified with the issues being discussed during pre-testing, she was amazed at how quickly it spread and developed a life of its own.

“Now’s the point in your career when you should probably retire so you can get out while you’re on top,” she jokes.

It’s certainly going to be difficult to beat, but there are no plans for these characters to return in another ad at this stage. She says it would be foolish to try and create Legend 2.0 because its success was so unexpected, but the next phase of the campaign is launching this weekend and it continues the focus on young males and shared responsibility, an approach more commonly being endorsed in the social marketing sphere.

Given Legend was easily the most popular ad of 2011 among the hoi polloi and, judging by the year in review Q+A series we ran on StopPress, also the most popular ad among those working in the industry, the fact that it won just one silver and five bronzes at the AXIS awards came as a bit of a shock to many.

The role of the AXIS awards—and whether they’re relevant to the business of advertising—is a bigger story for another day, but, unsurprisingly, Andrew was in a “pretty foul mood” when he went home after the awards and he says he had “never been so humiliated” as he was at that show. He believes the awards simply don’t interest clients any more and not given any major awards to Ghost Chips or Steinlager and DDB’s ‘We Believe’ campaign, as well as deciding not to give any awards in the radio, outdoor and magazine categories, showed a lack of common sense and didn’t do the industry any good.

So it was particularly gratifying when he checked in to see what people were saying about the decision the next morning to find the campaign had won a very rare Yellow Pencil in the earned media section at D&AD, an award show renowned for its exceedingly tough standards. And for him—and many others—the international endorsement highlighted the fact that not giving it any major awards at the local show was a foolish decision.

Awards or not, this ad appears to have cemented a place in Kiwi advertising folklore and, as the video says, “the phenomenal fing is” the target audience is now going to parties and proudly spreading a government-sponsored anti-drink driving message.

“Man, they got us reeeeaal good,” says the voiceover. And, as Prince says, how the whole scenario played out is a prime example of how powerful a good creative idea can be.

As for the other top performers in the poll, 2degrees ‘The mission continues’ was second, ‘Mountain Dew Skatepark’ by Colenso and Satin & Lace was third, 2degrees Business by TBWA and Film Construction was fourth, Shapes Roadies by Y&R and Finch was fifth, DB Export Dry by Colenso and The Sweet Shop was sixth and V Paintball by Colenso and The Sweet Shop was seventh.

  • As a reward for services to excellent television advertising, StopPress and ThinkTV will be taking 12 of the humans responsible for Ghost Chips out for a powerlunch at Snapdragon in the Auckland Viaduct, and we’ll be sure to take some pictures and put them up on the site to really rub it in.


Agency: Clemenger BBDO

Advertiser: New Zealand Transport Association

Acting Principal Advisor-Network User Behaviour: Rachel Prince

Principal Scientist: Dr Paul Graham

Executive Creative Director/Copywriter: Phillip Andrew

Art Director/Copywriter: Brigid Alkema

Copywriter: Mitch Alison

Head of Television: Martin Gray

Group Account Director: Linda Major

Account Director: Julianne Hastings

Production Company: The Sweet Shop

Director/Copywriter: Steve Ayson

Producer: Larisa Tiffin

Editor: Peter Scribberas, The Butchery

Audio: Jon Cooper, Franklin Road

Composer: Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper, Franklin Road

Post Production: Leoni Willis, Toybox


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