TVNZ aims to attract more Seven Sharp trialists with ‘No Ordinary Stories’ campaign

There’s been plenty of ink dedicated to Seven Sharp over the past few months—a bit too much in the opinion of TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick. But far from free-falling, the more informal, magazine-style current affairs show has stabilised to an average audience of around 375,000 viewers. And, in an effort to get more New Zealanders to give the show a go, it has launched a new campaign via its inhouse agency Blacksand. 

The ‘No Ordinary Stories’ campaign, which consists of a 45 second TV ad, outdoor and radio, focuses on some of the interesting Kiwi characters who have been featured on the programme so far. And it’s pretty good timing for the launch, because Seven Sharp had its highest rating week of the year last week in both 25-54s (average across the week: 7.2; 131,900) and 5+ (average across the week: 10.3; 425,000). Seven Sharp also hit its highest share result last week (25-54s hit 18 percent for first time, while 5+ hit 24 percent).

  • See how the ratings compare to Campbell Live and Close Up here

TVNZ marketing director Annemarie Browne says the campaign aims to show the kind of human-interest stories being covered, and also show that it’s very Kiwi, has a wry sense of humour and focuses on great storytelling.

“Just because it’s new and contemporary, it’s not necessarily looking for a younger audience. It’s looking for a broader audience. All the consumer insights around this time slot show people are looking to transition from an information-based hour of news into an entertainment style that’s a little bit more informal and more entertaining.”

It’s also often shared viewing time with family or friends, she says, so it lends itself to this style.

When we spoke with TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick, he said research told them viewers thought there was too much of the same at that time of night and Seven Sharp was a good thing because it gave viewers a choice. And when we spoke with TVNZ’s new head of news and current affairs John Gillespie, he reiterated that sentiment with a bit of a dig at Campbell Live’s typically more earnest approach.

“The feedback that’s come through from the audience has been outstanding. It’s been mostly positive, too,” he said. “They’re connecting with the variety of stories and appreciate that we’re not manufacturing something out of the Novopay botch up for the 17th time.”

While Browne agrees that it’s good for viewers to have a new style of current affairs to choose from, she thinks the main challenge is going up against the country’s biggest show, Shortland St (in a case of if ‘you can’t beat em, just get them on your show’, a few Shortland St stars featured as guests on Seven Sharp last week).

She says the show’s sponsors RaboDirect have been incredibly supportive and, given it was an unproven format, pretty brave. And she says display revenue around this important time slot has also remained stable since its launch.

The show has evolved considerably since the start, she says, something that’s probably more noticeable when looking on from behind-the-scenes, but she says the vibe among the team is great and the anchors have come a long way since that difficult opening week.

“They’re much better. Much more comfortable. And I think we’ve got some really great reporters. Research is showing that the more informal style is resonating with viewers.”

The show received a hell of a lot of attention before and after launch, so is there anyone in New Zealand who doesn’t know about it yet?

“The job of marketing is to get people to trial,” Browne says. “I think there are a lot of people who have heard about it, but maybe haven’t tried. And it’s difficult to get them to do that when they have such solid viewing habits.”

Seven Sharp has retained a lot of the Close Up audience, she says, so this campaign is trying to convince the others to switch over by being a clearer about how it differs in its approach.

In the past, a campaign like this probably would have been done by an agency (TVNZ used to work with Colenso BBDO and it now works with Contagion). But as TVNZ has a lot of production capability at its disposal and Blacskand’s executive creative director Jens Hertzum has a whole heap of experience, Browne says it makes sense to use those resources for its own marketing requirements. And, in this more fluid labour environment, it can add in extra freelance resource to cope with the extra load if required.

She estimates the workload of Blacksand is around 75 percent internal, with a massive amount of work going through for all the channels’ various promos, digital media production and marketing campaigns, and 25 percent for external clients.

As for Hertzum, he likes Seven Sharp and, given Blacksand created the initial launch campaign and played a central role in establishing its look, feel and tone, he says it made sense for it to take care of this campaign, which he says is about “New Zealand without the boring bits” and focuses on “Kiwi heroes and legends”. 

“There were many perceptions flying around about the show when it launched, but ultimately it’s a snapshot of the day from a New Zealand perspective. Seven Sharp has the option to do something a lot more fun, something that will get talked about. So we tried to mine that for the campaign in a fun, playful and entertaining way.”

Hertzum spent many years working in Australia but also popped in to work in New Zealand from time to time (he was involved in the rebrand of TV3 back in 2003) and married a Kiwi. He moved here permanently in November, and while he didn’t get to travel the country to film the various subjects in their natural habitats (they all ventured up to Auckland), he found it gratifying to get stuck into this very New Zealand campaign. And, even though he only had five weeks to do it, he enjoyed the process and he’s proud of the end result.


Director: Jens Hertzum 

Producer: Travena Addenbrooke

Brand Creative: Matthew Goodwin

DOP: Reanud Maire

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