Kapa haka, music and the ocean: Shortland Street gives youth a reason to vote

With 18- to 35-year-olds having a notoriously low voting turn out compared to older age groups and citing their rationale as apathy and a lack of political views, the Electoral Commission, via Saatchi & Saatchi and Starcom, has teamed up with TVNZ and three Shortland Street actors to turn that around before the polls open in September in a new campaign.

Created by TVNZ Blacksand, the campaign called ‘What Matters to You?’ features a series of videos that show three Shortland Street stars, Ngahuia Piripi, Tane Williams-Accra and Reuben Milner, open up about what they care about. 

For Piripi, it’s poi and performing kapa haka, while Williams-Accra talks about making music and Milner shares his love of the ocean. The hope is that sharing will encourage young voters to do the same and realise they should make their voices heard on election day.

TVNZ Blacksand executive creative director Jens Hertzum says the team wanted to avoid a heavy-handed approach to encouraging voting so it decided to keep the message simple and in line with what audiences are already interested in.

He says Shortland Street’s fan base will enjoy seeing the actors off set and out of character while gaining an insight into how they live their lives and where their passions lie. 

“What’s really interesting is you don’t often get to see the actors talking about their own lives,” Hertzum says.

“You often see them doing interviews but you don’t necessarily see them talking about what really matters to them and I think we captured that in a really lovely way.”

And in order to not take away from the actors’ stories, it steered clear of adding music while editing. Hertzum says it believes the actors were doing enough to stir up the emotions of the audience and it was careful not to dial it up with unnecessary music.

There was also consideration given to the size of the crew, with only a camera operator, sound operator and the director on set to ensure an intimate feeling was created.

In the 2014 election, of those registered to vote only 62.73 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, 62.11 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds and 67.4 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds. 

The Electoral Commission

Manager of communications and education at the Electoral Commission Anastasia Turnbull, says to increase those numbers it wants young people to see themselves as voters, so working with TVNZ to have Shortland Street’s youngest voters tell their stories is incredibly powerful.

TVNZ’s general manager of content Lyndsey Francis says the Electoral Commission gave it an in-depth brief that explained what its challenges were for this election, particularly around youth-skewed audiences and low participation in particular areas and sub-groups.

The two organisations spent a lot of time working through solutions before settling on the Shortland Street approach as it allows the commission to have both a broadcast presence and access to faces that are well-known to so many different groups around New Zealand as shown by the 627,000 people that tuned into the 25th anniversary feature length episode in May this year.

Francis says with figures like that, it’s sure to reach those that aren’t voting.

“Is it solely reaching that audience? Absolutely not, but it certainly has a huge volume of them there watching it nightly as well as catching up on-demand and participating in the social communities and channels that we have.”

She adds that particularly among those that are not voting, there’s a level of disengagement with the process due to a lack of understanding about what their personal participation means. And looking at the previous US election and the Brexit result, she says to some extent there’s a heightened sense of needing to participate.

It’s a thought shared by Newshub, which earlier this year launched the Ticked Off series to educate 18- to 24-year-olds about why their vote counts.

20-year-old reporter Mitchell Alexander is at the reins of the series and earlier this year he told StopPress his generation doesn’t know where to find out about politics and because they can’t understand it, they don’t bother.

Ticked Off’s solution is to talk youth through how MMP works, how cabinet is formed and what each party stands for in weekly snackable videos on Newshub’s Facebook page. So far, the most popular videos have been politics and beer pong with David Seymore (36,000 views) and Andrew Little hitting the weights to talk policy (29,000 views). 

Time will tell the engagement TVNZ’s effort achieves but it’s making the most of its owned platforms to maximise it. Right now, the videos are running in a Shorty Shorts section of TVNZ OnDemand and YouTube, and will roll out across TVNZ platforms across the month to tap into the Shortland Street fanbase and youth audience; on-air, online, on social and EDM.

For the second phase of the campaign, TVNZ Blacksand has produced pointed and punchy 15-second TVCs that will leave viewers in no doubt of the ease and importance of their vote.

Francis describes this first phase as “the why”, while the second phase is the call to action.

TVNZ’s relationship with the Electoral Commission is ongoing and has already seen the use of the Vote Compass in the last election to help people see where they sit on the political spectrum. To do that, it asks users questions about where they stand on election issues and calculates how their views stack up against the different parties.

In 2014, it saw more than 300,000 New Zealanders take part, with 130,000 of them doing so in the first 48 hours. This year’s Vote Compass is set to go live this weekend.


Directors: Gina Kindred, Jamie Gallant
Executive creative Director: Jens Hertzum
Creative director: Shannon Addison
Producer: Bridget Bolton-Riley
Content strategist: Ashleigh Vreeburg
Project manager: Kayla Radich
Copywriters: Shannon Addison, Will Munro
DOP: Scotty Lee
Editor: Trinity Ludlow
Sound: Marcus Lawson
Sound post: Roger Green
Digital graphic design: Charlotte Corrigall

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