Whether it was a fascination with the bizarreness of the premise or an unwavering commitment to his job, MediaWorks executive creative director Ant Farac decided to attend one of the weddings for Married at First Sight New Zealand.
The special occasion was already strange enough due to the absence of music to ensure recording quality, and the awkwardness was only dialled up when the mingling began.
“Someone approached me and asked me whether I was on the groom or the bride’s side of the family,” Farac laughs, explaining that this was the cue for him to make a quick exit.
The uncomfortableness of the show is part of the reason why viewers have been tuning in to watch. Much like a viral bot fly extraction video, there’s a morbid curiosity about Married at First Sight that pulls viewers in. We know it’s going to be a little gross and weird, but we can’t help but watch and then guffaw loudly about what we saw.
Farac says the aim of a show like this is always to integrate its way into the public consciousness.
“We have to be talkable, current, smart and interesting so that we become the watercooler chat,” says Farac.
Across both mainstream and social media, Married at First Sight has quickly emerged as the show that everyone’s talking about, earning column inches in the entertainment sections of the NZ Herald, Stuff and The Spinoff and regularly trending on Twitter.
It’s also delivering strong ratings for MediaWorks, winning its timeslot across all demographics last week and pulling in a 23.5 percent share of the 25-54 audience.
While Farac credits much of this success to the knack of the programming team to pick popular shows, his promotional campaign has also played a role in driving interest in the show.
Farac’s involvement stretches back seven months before the first episode when MediaWorks put out a call for entries into the show.
“You don’t know until you do that first call to action how many people actually want to do it,” Farac says.
It didn’t take long for the gossip and opinion to start swirling around and this only added to the hype around the show.
“In this country, everyone knows each other by two degrees of separation,” says Farac. “We’re the ultimate social experiment really because the pool is so small.”
When it came to promoting the launch of the show, it would’ve been easy to play up the inevitable drama that would ensue.
Instead, Farac took a more romantic approach, focusing on the journey the entrants have undertaken to reach other.
“I think these people when they begin their journey, they’re actually very brave,” he says. “It takes a very brave person to decide that they’re going to meet someone for the first time at the aisle. I suppose that is pretty romantic.”
The creative plays out to a stripped back cover of The Proclaimers’ hit song 500 Miles.
“The Proclaimers version wasn’t the right tempo and tone, but the lyrics were perfect in terms of how far you’d go to be with the one.”
Paying for music rights, particularly when it comes to famous songs, is often one of the most expensive elements in creating a promotional campaign, but Farac says the decision to run a cover made the process more economical.
“We had to buy the publishing rights, but we didn’t have to buy the recording rights and that’s often the thing that throws the price out,” he explains.
The creative team at MediaWorks worked with Natalie Wilson, a music supervisor at The Other Side Music, who called in a few composers to rework the track into something suitable for the creative idea.
The decision to have singer and songwriter Hollie Smith perform the track came via a suggestion from MediaWorks group entertainment content director Andrew Szusterman, who had worked with her previously.
Smith also went on perform a live version of the song during the launch event of Married at First Sight.
Alongside the lead campaign, MediaWorks has also released a clip that attributes certain personality traits to each of participants.
“We have some interesting personality types, and we wanted the audience at home to participate a bit as well,” Farac says.
“These are just caricatures of who they are. It isn’t their actual personality. It just gives the audience something to attach to.”
Notably, the campaign is centred on television, with digital serving as more of a complementary channel for the promotion of the show—an approach Farac describes as deliberate.
“I’m not saying digital is a bad thing, but you should play to your strength and television’s that’s definitely our strength,” he says.
He adds that MediaWorks’ faith in television also sends an important message to the advertising market.
“People come to us to put ads on our TV stations. We have to believe in the power of the media we use ourselves… If we can’t use this as our biggest strength, then what message does that send to advertisers?”
Creative/Director: Ant Farac
Art Design/Director: Juita Tambunan
Head of Marketing: Rebecca Saunders
Brand Manager: Rachel Langford
Producer: Alix Wilson
DOP: Ado Greshoff
Photographer: Stephen Tilley
Post Production: Mikee Carpinter