Getting drafted to New Zealand, Draft gabs ambient with us.

Still itching to gab ambient and guerilla advertising stuff, even after my chat with Miami advertising about guerilla past and present, I had the chance to bend the ear of Chris Hunter from Draft NZ, and I jumped on it.
No strangers to cocky ambient stuff like their recent thumb-on-the-nose to Starbucks the crap coffee trasbins/giant cups on K road, he had some interesting insights to share. Chris explained to me that "the full name is Karangahape Road, but no-one
can be bothered to pronounce that, so it's known as K Road." But of course! More inside.

Mugshot of Creative Director Chris Hunter and Judi Lewis, the Draft NZ General Manager.

dabitch: New Zealand in general and Auckland specifically seems like a hotspot for Ambient ads, I recall a sticker campaign put on the street crossing "buttons" (or whatever those are called) that read "The world could end this easily" from Greenpeace in '98, and spiffy mural painting campaign for the red cross in Wellington back in '96. Are you all a little bit more ambient media friendly down there?

Chris Hunter: Yeah, everybody loves ambient down here. NZ creative teams often try to come up with an ambient component for a campaign, even if it's not in the brief. And if clients like it, they'll buy it. Cost is not usually an issue.

We don't major in ambient at Draft, but we are getting to the stage where briefs are not media-specific. So it's not like, "Give me a quarter page ad" - it's more like "I need to reach this sector of the population". That opens the door for ambient and its partner in crime, interactive. We just look to do stuff that's outside the brief, a bit more than the obvious.

When I arrived from London I noticed what they call the 'Number 8 wire' mentality here. Number 8 is a gauge of wire used to make quick fences for livestock, plus all sorts of general repairs. Kids even tie down their car springs with it, to create budget lo-riders. 'Number 8' means doing stuff on the fly, quick and dirty, and it's built into the Kiwi psyche. No job too hard, if you like. That helps a lot in advertising.

---- A recent Vodafone campaign from Draft, NZ -----

Water Cooler

New Girl

dabitch: ...Now that is interesting. Media shouldn't come before the idea anyway, stating target market first makes a lot more sense.
Does the Kiwi mentality also put the punters into the frame of mind of "expecting the unexpected"? I mean, is ambient stuff more appreciated there than it is, say in an overcrowded media landscape like NYC?

Chris Hunter: Kiwis are a contradictory bunch. It's an inherently conservative culture - you don't have the strong alternative/underground scenes you get in other countries. And they have the 'tall poppy' syndrome: mouthy types will get cut down to size. But on the other hand, they don't mind if you say the word 'bugger' in a primetime TV ad for Toyota.

We took advantage of that with a DRTV spot for our wireless broadband client Woosh. Straightforward offer stuff. One of our mac guys is the drummer for a local punk band called the Larry Normans, so we got them to do the soundtrack. It was so raucous you couldn't actually hear the vocals, so we then had to caption the ad. The client, bless him, was very understanding. The cut-and-paste animation showed a teenage girl getting pregnant to the local Chinese delivery boy. And the viewers loved it. The phones blew off the hook.

So yes, people accept the unexpected. And the landscape - both literally and in a media sense - is much less cluttered here. It's less crowded, so it's easier to stand out. There's less competition for your attention in the public realm.

dabitch: Personally, I have this nagging fear that when all the usual suspects of ambient channels start getting worn out - say street stencilling for example - it will just become another blip on the media landscape that the people ignore. So I get really peeved when ambient medias seem to be used just for the medias sake, rather than for it being the best place to communicate that idea. Somewhere I think ideas actually need to be stronger in ambient media channels than anywhere else, as not to tick people off.

Chris Hunter: Yes, I do think they need to be stronger.
Most ambient advertising pales by comparison to the stencil stuff being done by the UK artist Banksy, for starters. Ambient is losing its novelty factor as a medium, but a lot of the ideas haven't strengthened to compensate for that yet.

dabitch You know, I heard that Banksy is a 'failed' copywriter, that never got his break in advertising, but that might just be part of the myth.
Obviously, catching the target market where the target actually is, works. But some recent things have been grating people, like the PSP campaign for example. When does clever ambient stuff become ad creep that creeps people out? Seems to be a fine line.

Chris Hunter:
It's a real fine line, and I don't think ad folk are very good at judging that line yet. The inbuilt bullshit filters that help you separate good ideas from bad in traditional media, like print or DM, aren't highly developed yet in the ambient field. Ambient's still a toddler in advertising terms. So I guess you sometimes get clever ideas for the sake of being clever. I think that's when ambient can grate.

It's like the guy you get stuck with at a party who's talking about stuff you don't give a shit about. He's got your attention, only to waste your time on something irrelevant. Creep.

dabitch: exactly like that, yes!

Chris Hunter: ...Sometimes I've come up with an idea for something, not necessarily ambient, and spent a whole day walking around thinking I'm a genius. And then I wake up the next day and realise that my idea might raise a laugh amongst my fellow adwankers, but it'll completely miss the mark for the general public.

dabitch: Hehe. Well there's a familiar trap that I think we all fall into on occasion. Advertising can be really good at in-joking and navel-gazing. How do you avoid tripping yourself up by talking to yourself & fellow adnerds, and find the language/ideas that speak to the actual target? Got any special tricks to get yourself in the right frame of mind?

Chris Hunter: I'd say don't get too hung up on the ad scene. You know: who's doing what, who's won what, who's had their pic taken while having lunch. Your worldview shrinks and you start to lose touch with the punters. Like all those bands that are 'critically acclaimed' and 'influential' - but actually sell bugger all records.

I have mental tests I set myself according to the target audience. Like "Will my mother-in-law dig that?" Or "Will my teenage niece laugh?" You want something that's smart from both a real-world and an advertising perspective. I suspect that many award shows have too many ads that appeal more to other creatives - the "F*, wish I'd thought of that!" reaction - rather than to Joe Public.

Occasionally you get glorious cross-overs that hit the spot for everyone, like the Honda spots from Wieden+Kennedy London, but not often enough for my liking.

Some more interactive examples, the got 2nd place at the last John Caples Awards in NYC.

Also, we did a recent online thing for the Vodafone Warriors, NZ's national rugby league team. Like American football, but without the shoulder

dabitch: Aaaaaah Now there's a sport! I was actually meaning to ask about rugby somewhere, as I'm a huge fan of the sport where men with legs like muscle-trees run around in teeny shorts and slam into each other in big sweating piles.... whoha, I'm loosing my train of thought there. *swoon* Hmm, trying that online game of yours, I didn't manage to even get Monty pissed off. I'm just too darn nice. 81% in fact.

Chris Hunter: They're rugby mad here. It's a condition of citizenship. They have two types of rugby: league and union. Except they call it 'football'. Which is very confusing to an immigrant Pom, because football means soccer everywhere else. Unless you're in the US, of course. (Jeez, it's all so complicated.)

dabitch: Hahaha! Too funny. Oh, and I already love it, so move over I'm coming down!
Oh and PS: Hire me please, Draft NZ sounds like a great place to work. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

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makethelogobigger's picture

I am SO way late to this but only discvoered it today. Great interview. Good insights.

caffeinegoddess's picture

Cool interview. Some nice work too. Thanks folks at Draft for the inside view (and Dabitch for putting it together!)

lordFredruk's picture

Beautiful button. It makes me think of the cold war days and the nuclear hysteria. Really interesting to read about the culturual state of mind in NZ. In some dark parts of the North, we have a long way to go. Keep up the good work.

aiiobo's picture

Good interview. And that Rugby game isn't bad either, I did manage to piss of those players. It's a talent.

purken's picture

I'm way later and must add my approval to this post as well. Nice one.