Politicians help Powershop cash in

Powershop is cashing in on the gaffes of politicians through a refer-a-friend campaign that references our past and present leaders in various states of strife.

After poking fun at Judith Collins and pissing off John Banks, the retailer is back with a campaign that now has Mana Party MP Hone Harawira the butt of the joke.

Powershop has been running a friend-get-friend referral campaign since 2009 which gives the referrer up to $50 credit and the referee up to $100 credit. 

After the online energy retailer started using Kiwi politicians in their ads, illustrated by famous New Zealand cartoonist Murray Webb and in collaboration with the company’s creative agency Doublefish, conversions leapt up.

After enlisting the charms of Papakura MP Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins for the campaign, Powershop’s average referral rate of 9-11 percent jumped up to 23.95 percent, it says. This was the company’s highest conversion rate over two years.

“I think the more topical and humorous our creative is the more attention it seems to get, so I think it was the time and place and relevance of it that sparked the interest,” Powershop chief executive Ari Sargent says of the ad. 

The latest campaign, launched two weeks ago online, now has Mana Party MP Hone Harawira copping the flack.

It shows Hone, who lost his Te Tai Tokerau seat at the 2014 General Election, trying to hitch a ride back to Parliament with the copy ‘Know someone who wants the power back? Tell them about Powershop”.

With early conversion rates already at 17 percent, Sargent is confident Hone will match his parliamentary peers for power conversions.

Sargent says when devising the campaign they thought about the sorts of people who might need some power back. 

“And Hone and Judith Collins were the first two candidates for that, really.” 

Former ACT MP John Banks was also subject to a dig when Powershop released a campaign featuring the ex-MP.

“We had John Banks wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Kim Dotcom on it – it was a topical and humorous take on what was going on in public life,” Sargent says.

The ad ran with a promotion that split the customer reward payment into two equal amounts of $25 – a reference to Banks’ electoral fraud court case.

Banks’ influence increased Powershop’s conversion to 17.1 percent, Powershop says. While it would not provide the ad because it said Banks asked them not to use his image, the offending image can still be found on its Facebook page.

Sargent says he has not heard from Crusher or Harawera in regards to the campaign, but he did hear from Banks when the above launched.

“We have had feedback from John Banks that he wasn’t too amused. I guess even he saw it for what it was, but he wasn’t particularly amused by it,” he says.

Banks emailed Sargent, who says in the end Banks was “quite good about it” and “understood what it was” once he saw it in context.

So far, Powershop has managed to avoid any law suits from the campaigns, although Sargent says the company is always careful to take legal advice.

‘We’re lucky to live in a country where you can do this kind of thing and have a laugh about it, rather than ending up an expensive legal battle, or in jail. 

“Having said that, we drew the line at Colin Craig. We really didn’t want to end up in court with someone so irrelevant,” he says.    

While the lashes have been directed at parties from both the left and right, Sargent says they don’t pay much attention to that.

“I think it was more who were the candidates who fit best with the campaign and who we could make humorous and entertaining,” he says.

There also wasn’t much worry when it came to polarising die-hard Crusher, Banks or Hone fans.

“I think we work hard to make it humorous so even if you don’t particurly like it you can see the humour in it,” Sargent says.

Despite getting an email from John Banks, Sargent doesn’t think this campaign has been the company’s most controversial.

Powershop’s ‘Same Power, Different Attitude’ campaign, which placed famous dictators, tyrants, and villains in uncharacteristic positions, was the campaign that received the most outrage, Sargent says.

“Various versions of that [campaign]have caused controversy in different circles. So obviously the pope and gay marriage was controversial at the time, Chairman Mao doing Gangnam style was of concern to Auckland Transport, so different campaigns have had different reactions from different parts of the community,” he says.

In March 2013 Auckland Council prevented the Mao Gangnam style ad from appearing on bus-stops, stating the Council doesn’t want ads which are designed to be shocking, offensive or controversial. In this case the picture of Chairman Mao riding an invisible horse could have been considered offensive by Chinese residents and equestrians, it said.

Powershop also stopped using Star Wars’ villain Darth Vader’s image in 2011, after being asked to stop by a copyright lawyer, possibly from LucasFilm.

Three years later the Australian branch of the company used Darth Vader’s image again, and were asked to cease and desist by LucasFilm.

Sargent says the company will be launching a new campaign early next year.

More details could not be coaxed from the power retailer’s chief executive, apart from to be told it will be “quite a different style” in a recognisable kind of way.

“You’ll have to wait and see,” Sargent says.

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