‘Your guts isn’t a floatation device’: Nani Pupu brings sass to water safety in new Māori Television campaign

Māori Television has introduced a bit of sassiness to water safety in a new campaign that features Nani Pupu, the opinionated, bolshie and often inappropriate character that Mai FM’s Brent Mio played in the YouTube clips for the ‘Te Kupu o te Wiki‘ language programme initiated in conjunction with NZ Post for Māori Language Week this year.

In the new campaign, which is set to run from Labour Weekend to Easter next year, Nani Pupu is depicted giving unsuspecting men advice as they’re about to engage in water activities. 

The campaign was produced inhouse by Māori Television and follows on from a New Zealand Post brief that tasked the broadcaster’s creative team to create a campaign that targets unprepared and overconfident Māori males who’ve spent their life around the water. 

“We wanted the commercials to be engaging and to resonate with viewers, informing them about the dangers without scaring them off,” New Zealand Post spokesperson Charles Ropitini said.

The reason why the message has been targeted specifically at Māori is because they are represented disproportionately high in terms of the drowing statistics recorded annually by Water Safety New Zealand’s DrownBase.

Of the 540 drowning deaths recorded between 2009 and 2013, 112 were Māori people, which means that Māori, which constitute only 14 percent of the population, have accounted for 21 percent of the nation’s drowning deaths over the last five years.  

Māori Television’s programme sponsorship and integration manager Toni Urlich says that the creative team decided to take a humorous approach for such a serious message because they felt it had a better chance of resonating with the target market.   

“The main challenge when relaying such an important message is trying to break through to the audience to change behaviour,” says Urlich. “They know of many of the dangers, but their ingrained habits and attitude mean they’re quick to dismiss safety messages – especially if the message is yet another formal, stern warning. This is why we have used the humour of Nani Pupu (so people sit up and watch when she comes on), and also designed the spots to resonate with the whole whanau – so everyone will hopefully hassle their loved ones to pick up the safety habits.”

Nani Pupu appeared in five of the 50 clips created for the ‘Te Kupu o te Wiki’ campaign and Urlich says she was a hit among family members of all ages.

Urlich says: “We want wives, sisters, brothers, children and grandparents to all parrot Pupu’s nagging but well-meaning safety messages – be careful, check conditions, and wear a life jacket. Your guts isn’t a flotation device!”

Māori Television’s unique approach to PSAs has seen the broadcaster involved in a variety of projects targeted at the Māori community. In addition to the well-awarded ‘Blazed’ campaign, Māori Television has also produced ‘Taihoa’ campaign for the HPA, ‘Crayons’ campaign for Quitline, the ‘That’s Us’ for Unitec.       

Urlich says that the reason that Māori Television places great empahsis on producing PSAs that cut through the clutter of information that viewers are bombarded with every day. 

“Many PSAs fall on flat ears, as the audience are tired of hearing that they should do this, or they shouldn’t do that. We have a solid understanding of the audience – their attitudes, habits and behaviours,” says Urlich. “And this means we’ve been take care of both the creative and the production side of things – and successfully communicate previously unnoticed messages.”

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