Air New Zealand Shows Great Creative Can Still Fly

Air New Zealand Shows Great Creative Can Still Fly

In today’s guest post from ongoing contributor and industry vetern Robert Strohfeldt, he responds to Air New Zealand’s newest ad, featuring one comical talking duck, and how creative and media departments need to work closer together.

Robert Strohfeldt
Posted by Robert Strohfeldt

The original title for this article was going to be “A Brave New World Where Technology Trumps Creative” – a rant about how what constitutes advertising (the creative) has been almost totally overlooked – but I saw for the first time the new Air New Zealand TVC and thought “YES! Creative is not dead.”

Here is the making of a great campaign that ticks every element of a proper creative brief, and containing the core elements of target, objectives, proposition, support, tone and mandatories. (For all mediums).

The TVC covers all bases:

  • Communicates clearly the core proposition: Discover a better way to fly to America
  • Highlights all of the benefits, the sum of which equates to the core proposition.
  • Branding: You cannot miss who the ad is for. The Meerkats TVC series built a huge following, with only one slight problem; very few knew what the brand was for and it was more about entertainment than sell. Not a bad thing as long as it brands strongly and creatives a positive feeling towards the brand.
  • Charming and funny: Entertains, but not at the expense of what advertising is tasked to do – in this case it would be to generate enquiry. The ad can’t do the selling, only generate the traffic.
  • The TVC can easily be cut into 15 second variants for frequency and use online.
  • The idea can be adapted to any medium, traditional or “new”. With the dominance of online media, creative has been starting at the tail and working its way up to the head of the dog. This is why so much online activity is short-term tactical. But there is no overarching idea to tie all of the elements together. Any decent creative team would be able to adapt this idea to any medium. A huge tick.
  • The TVC is being passed around on social media. As Professor Ritson keeps saying, “It is social media”. Not only great TVCs, but many pieces of information or entertainment receive huge exposure through social media if it is deemed worthy to “pass on”.

Not all products and service lend themselves to such outstanding creativity, whilst remaining relevant i.e. staying on brief. The Rossiter/Percy grid was developed about 25 years ago and should still be mandatory today in preparation of a creative brief.

It is a two- dimensional grid with price and image as the two axis. High image allows for greater creative latitude. But it is worthwhile Googling it – simple, logical and it works.

As a creative director, you sometimes look for an answer that goes beyond the brief. This is not always required or possible (e.g., a retail promotion) but ideally, the creative response is an idea that is both campaignable, or if a promotion/one off fits into an existing campaign and can be adapted to all media (both traditional and online).

There are so many media choices available and rarely will the budget extend to them all, so it is imperative that media and creative collaborate to “select” the best combination of the quantitative and the qualitative.  Finally, any (even the most junior) team the in department, can pick up the idea and run with it for future executions.

But 2016 has been The Year of Media. Finally, questions are being asked about the measurement and efficacy of online and social media and the enduring strength of traditional media is also being highlighted.  There is a slow, but hopefully continuously growing, realisation that an integrated approach to media is required.

During the debates about media, creative has been sadly missing. It has been all about the numbers, but what about the message – so much noise about the carrier, but no matter how great the schedule, ultimately the success or failure will come down to the message?

We have been through the blind rush to social and online, but now some objectivity and saneness has come into the debate. But the result has generated confusion. What is the optimum integrated media mix to attain my objectives? Does traditional still have more than a cursory roll? How can we optimise the balance between the quantitative and qualitative? (The latter has been almost totally disappeared in recent years.)

Advertising always has and always will be MEDIA + MESSAGE = ADVERTISING.

As the media and creative agency split occurred before what we can now call the digital era in advertising (at least prior to Web 2.0), the two have increasingly grown further apart. Great advertising doesn’t come from a great media schedule and shit creative, any more than it comes from a shit schedule and great creative.

With the benefit of hindsight, our industry has found itself in a position where it’s very integrity is being questioned. Not good timing with some heavyweight potential competitors lining up to eat our lunch.

“Media first” is philosophy that has won out and creative, once the “rock stars” of the industry have been reduced to the supporting act. (Some could even argue the Roadies).

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard “creatives from traditional media don’t understand digital”. That is absolute garbage. A good creative person can develop creative for any medium, as long as they first know and truly understand how each particular medium is “consumed” or used by the consumer.

Go way back to radio – theatre of the mind. The art is to use sounds (effects and voices to create mental pictures). TV is a “one way” medium. Unlike social media, they are not engaged in talking to someone or posting something. They are sitting back watching for entertainment or information. Combine this with sound and vision and you have a great opportunity to capture attention – if the creative is high quality.

But there is little or no discussion about this. Media dominates the agenda – and the bigger the audience reported (as opposed to actual), the better. Where is the discussion and debate on how to best utilise each medium creatively by understanding how each is used by the consumer? Too often the requirement is a series of independent sale promotions (oops, sorry, activation), that do nothing for the brand’s long term image; the backbone of a brand’s worth and value.

I think it would be so much harder starting out in creative today. There are so many media options, all with diverse reasons for being used, but no close ongoing working relations with media partners to help with these questions. And you don’t have a media department next door you can pop into for a discussion.

Media is no longer a department within the agency, part of a team, but a separate company. One day you are asked for a radio ad, then the next an ad for Facebook. Two of the most differing mediums in their use and hence have major implications for the creative approach, yet you can’t informally pop in to see the media members of your team to discuss these idiosyncrasies and their impact.  You must set up a meeting, make an appointment – a great way to kill the spontaneity of informal discussions with people you have developed a tight working relationship with.

Often the result is an “us” and “them” mentality.  Not insurmountable, but as an industry, mutually exclusive silos have evolved where ours is very much a business where the sum of the parts has and will always be greater than each of the individual components.

For how long can an industry not only exist, but prosper, in a rapidly changing environment when the service, the end product, has been split into two separate businesses which act pretty much irrespective of each other?

Thank you to the creators of the Air New Zealand TVC (and that is all members of the team, not just the creative team) for such a vivid reminder of what advertising is meant to be about and that is much more than just numbers on a media schedule.