Public Service Advertising

Kiwis love being told what to do. And then doing the exact opposite.

In a, perhaps ironic, counterbalance to all the hours of Cheap TV Adverts on New Zealand television, the government happily invests millions of taxpayer’s money producing film-quality, 30-second vignettes and print ads, reminding us what a bunch dicks we all are, and how, if we only drink less/drive slower/eat lamb/exercise/breast feed/buy NZ/don’t bash our kids/& make it click, then this could, at last, be a really choice place to live.

In fact, New Zealand pretty much pioneered the genre, with a series of ground-breaking commercials in the late 1980s demonstrating, on prime time TV, the gory, tooth-cracking physics of exiting a Holden Barina, airborne through the front windscreen, after 5 pints (and one oncoming truck) too many for the road.

Like all original ideas, it was quickly plagiarised worldwide by governments eager to scare their citizens into a pattern of responsible, more productive behaviour. Mostly, however, this just resulted in the global regurgitation of TV dinners, and putting down of forks in disgust, as the level of gnarly realism required to shock desensitized audiences crept up with each campaign, such that nightly reruns of Emmerdale were regularly being interrupted by images of incest-victim toddlers, shooting smack, while drunk-driving over the speed limit, after dropping out of secondary school instead of giving blood, like the would have done, if only they’d eaten five portions of fruit a day.

And, if New Zealand had patented this concept internationally – perhaps by watermarking each ad with a small outline of our country in the top right corner, or closing with a winking cartoon-Kiwi and the words ‘Proudly brought to you by Aotearoa’ – then we might have been able to really put ourselves on the map a good 10 years before Lord of The Rings. Unfortunately, much like the selling of the global rights to the Kiwi show Popstars, letting a decent lawyer look over the contract first was deemed “a waste of bloody money” when one could simply “do it yourself, with a couple of bits of number eight wire”.