Telling the New Zealand Story: how the campaign was brought to life

Developing a video that’s representative of an entire country is in many ways comparable to hosting a gigantic birthday party, in the sense that you have to include as many people as possible while simultaneously ensuring that those who haven’t been invited don’t harbour any ill will on account of being excluded.    

It thus comes as no surprise that Assignment Group’s executive director Martin Yeoman felt a sense of trepidation when given the chance to produce this campaign. Yeoman says, “Creating your country’s story is an immense challenge. Everyone has a view, and in a way they’re all right. You don’t want to simplify it down to the point you lose the distinctiveness, nor can you include so much that it’s not single-minded.”

To avoid the risk of a narrow point of view, Yeoman says that they engaged with “over 200 representatives of New Zealand business, education, Government, Maori” and he attributes the success of the end product to the collective desire and sense of responsibility of all those involved.

One thing that made this project slightly more manageable was that Assignment Group and Designworks had the precedent of the ‘100 percent pure’ campaign at their disposal. This well-loved video gave the creative team an idea of what Kiwis liked, and Yeoman says, “The New Zealand Story has drawn inspiration from the 100% Pure Campaign, particularly in the ‘open spaces’ and ‘open hearts’ chapters.” And it’s easy to see what he means by this. The rolling landscapes, impressive ocean vistas and rustic imagery in these sections of the video are strongly reminiscent of the 1999 campaign. 

Yeoman is however quick to draw a distinction between the projects, saying, “The objectives of the two campaigns are different: ‘100 Percent Pure New Zealand’ is targeted at selling the product of New Zealand as a visitor destination. The New Zealand Story is about supporting exporters on the world stage as they work to sell their own products.”

With its emphasis on Kiwi ingenuity, education, intelligence, productivity and innovation, the ‘open minds’ chapter gives potential investors a one-minute-20-second breakdown of New Zealand’s major selling points.

“This is about broadening the perception of New Zealand internationally, beyond the scenic beauty of the country to include attributes like our innovation and resourcefulness, our integrity and our welcoming, friendly approach,” says Yeoman.

Although the video is designed to appeal to foreign markets, Assignment Group and Curious Film wanted to give it a distinctly Kiwi flavour and thus used local talent during the production process.

The stirring voice in the video belongs to actor Te Kohe Tuhaka, who after graduating from Toi Whakaari, New Zealand’s Drama School went on to act in the award-winning short flim Tama Tu and the celebrated one-man show Michael James Manaia. And the emotive score that carries Tuhaka’s deep vocal effort is also the product of Kiwi talent. SJD, who is better known for his electronica tracks, specially composed the music for the The New Zealand Story.

Although unseen and unheard, lead writer Jamie Hitchcock also brought his creativity to the table with a simple yet powerful script. Having already gained somewhat of a cult appreciation in the industry for his work on the  hilarious L&P stubbies campaign, Hitchcock shows in The New Zealand Story that he’s equally comfortable writing serious copy.

A video with such high production value and of such governmental importance could not simply be thrown into the online landfill of YouTube. It was thus that Designworks, with Noel Blackwell as head of strategy, was commissioned to design a suitable Internet abode for the campaign.

The slick website that they created seamlessly incorporates the key features of the campaign and brings online fruition to each of the chapters that are depicted in the video. The homepage provides easy navigation to the various sections, and the media-loaded ‘Assets Library’ consolidates the main motivations with a collection of images and videos.

Given how complementary the video and website are it almost seems as though one agency directed the whole project, but Yeoman says that it was a collaborative effort between Assignment Group and Designworks.

“We entered the project as a true partnership. Together we developed the strategy, and from there we each took the lead on different aspects of the project according to our respective skill sets. However every step we made the major creative and strategic decisions together. Our skills are very complementary,” says Yeoman.

According to Yeoman, the campaign has been well received thus far, but he also pragmatically says, “The ultimate test will be the stories of connection and examples of New Zealand enterprises taking it out to the world.” These stories, however, are yet to be told.

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