Revealed! Mysterious NZ Notworth News puppet masters show their dastardly faces

The nation’s watercoolers have been abuzz with speculation for the last couple of weeks after the NZ Notworth News campaign went live. Well, the culprits can be revealed, with nzherald.co.nz, its agency M&C Saatchi and production company Small Town Media behind the satirical Anchorman-esque broadcasting network.

According to APN Online’s general manager Spencer Bailey, the campaign has been in the pipeline since September and no-one aside from APN Online and its partners knew about it, not even the wider APN group. It led to speculation it was part of the FOUR launch (fortuitous timing, rather than good planning, he says) or a new comedy show for TV2. Even the Herald’s John Drinnan guessed it had something to do with ONE News because of the use of red.

“nzherald.co.nz has a reputation for being the most trusted New Zealand news source online,” says Bailey. “By forming an entire news team that parodies the other kinds of news available to the New Zealand public, we were able to highlight the quality of our content and that not all news is created equal—and have some fun along the way. We also believe that original and innovative ideas are the best way to bring about solutions that work—those ideas are for us, or our advertisers. We wanted this campaign to highlight that as well.”

A few smart cookies figured out it probably had something to do with APN, either because of the big double page spreads in the APN-owned Herald and the Listener or, as the NBR pointed out, because the site was registered by Scott True, who works in the marketing team at APN Online (in a slightly related satirical news observation, the NBR‘s slogan on the web browser bar at the top, whatever that’s called, is ‘Tomorrow’s business news today’, which is very similar to the slogan for StopPress’ fictional leftovers restaurant, ‘Tomorrow’s Food Today’).

Even if it was outed, the campaign certainly created plenty of discussion, especially in agency land, and much like the V Rocket Man campaign, it really does show the power of secrets in an age where people expect information immediately. As expected, Bailey says there were differing responses to it. But now the instigators have been revealed, the campaign will continue along the same fun-poking path, with the stereotypical news team (which is scarily reminiscent of Fox News in the US) putting their own spin on actual news stories that feature on nzherald.co.nz.

From today and for the next month, freshly spun articles and video content will be put up on the nznotworthnews.co.nz site, making it into what could be seen as a poor imitation of The Onion or The Day Today (“Facts x Importance = News”).

Dave King, creative director at M&C Saatchi, says a lot of Kiwis read or hear a news story and accept that it is true, without putting a reality check over it.

“Yet look at many of the news providers available to the New Zealand public and you quickly realise they have credibility issues. Some are fluffy, others sensationalise, while there are a bundle that add a huge right wing spin. With this campaign we’re taking real news stories, then having the NZ Notworth News team apply their particular flaw to it. After people read or watch that story they are directed through to the real story on nzherald.co.nz, highlighting how easy it is to get flawed news unless you go to a trusted source.”

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