Great adverts are strange things: mini works of magic, with the power to make viewers smile, cry, and even buy. Kiwi directors have shown such a knack for making them, they've been invited to do so across the globe. But this collection is about local favourites; dogs on skateboards, choc bar robberies, ghost chips. NZ On Screen's Irene Gardiner backgrounds the top 10 here.
A mainstay on cinema and TV screens for over 20 years, this commercial — reputedly NZ’s longest-running — made Kiwis feel as if the UK-born hokey pokey treasure was ‘ours’. Directed by Tony Williams, the madcap romp features a bevy of 70s acting talent caught up in chaos, after outlaws start a free for all fight for a chest of Crunchie bars. A connection with Martin Scorsese’s editor allowed access to footage from old Westerns, while the immortal tune is by Murray Grindlay. Williams overspent his meagre budget, and a lawn mower given to him as a thank you ended up his fee.
Decades after the words "and Hugo said you go" first entered eardrums, this animated Kentucky Fried Chicken ad is still beloved by many on both sides of the Tasman. Two children sit in the car with a hunger so strong, they're "getting thinner" (though not so you'd notice). Song, lyrics and imagery work as one: the car, the animals and the KFC store all move in time with the music, sending a 'we're all in this together' message that is as hypnotic as it is logic-defying. The promo was animated by Australia's Zap Productions. Wayne Myers' song 'Hugo' was released there as a single.
This classic ad was made on a shoestring budget: milk bottle silver caps stood in for soldier’s dog tags and a Wellington quarry apes a Korean War-zone of the evergreen MASH TV series (from the naming of “O’Reilly” at the top of the mail call through to the 1953 country and western tearjerker used in the soundtrack, sung by Jacqui Fitzgerald and adapted by Murray Grindlay). The anachronism of cassette tapes in Korea proved a charming twist on the traditional ‘Dear John’ letter; and the ad was later voted Best Australasian commercial of the 80s.
Arguably one of New Zealand's most beloved advertising campaigns, the Crumpy and Scotty adverts combined an iconic Kiwi author, odd couple comedy, and off road driving. They also deftly sent up two cliches: the unruffled country guy — in the shape of Good Keen Man Barry Crump — and the wimp from the city (played by Lloyd Scott). The first ad sees Scotty trying to sell the brilliance of the Hilux four-wheel drive, while Crumpy takes a backroads short cut. The follow-up spot sees Scotty taking extra precautions. The Crumpy and Scotty ads continued for 12 more years.
This 1988 Europa commercial showcases the guitar playing of American bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan. An anthem to good times on the road, the promo features four friends — musician Midge Marsden, jingles veteran Murray Grindlay, Vaughan’s fiance Janna Lapidus and Brigitte Berger — larking around the North Island in an old ute. Stopping off at the iconic DC3 aeroplane parked in small-town Mangaweka, they step into a bar made from car parts to join Stevie Ray on stage. A shorter cut of this petrol station promo also screened, plus an ad featuring an acoustic version of the song.
This classic 1989 TV commercial promoted the NZ Lotteries Commission’s new ‘scratch and win’ cards. The goad to gamble was based on the question: “Instant Kiwi attitude: have you got it?” as personified by a bungy-jumping fisherman. From Saatchi & Saatchi’s then-high-flying Wellington office, the promo is iconic of the big budget era of NZ ad making. It was directed by Flying Fish co-founder Lee Tamahori, who also helmed high profile promos for Fernleaf and Steinlager before making his movie directing debut with Once Were Warriors (1994).
In the 90s Spot was an acronym for the Services and Products of Telecom, and also a much loved Australian Jack Russell terrier. He starred in 43 different Telecom commercials made between 1991 and 1998 — many of them on an epic scale and seemingly at risk to his life or limb. Special mention should be made of the size of the Yellow Pages shoot, apparently featuring a warehouse full of chefs, couriers and entertainers — and of Spot’s considerable arsenal of tricks from skateboard riding to orchestra conducting. Spot died in Sydney in 2000 at age 13.
This boisterous Geoff Dixon-directed commercial dates from the time when craft beer was yet to make a big mark, and Lion Red was NZ's number one beer. Hyperactive in a flannel shirt, a pre-Hercules Michael Hurst takes the mic at a pub talent quest, and sings a war cry for Kiwi blokes against wimpy pretenders like champagne cocktails and Mexican beers. Local advertising veteran Roy Meares wrote the "anti-yuppie commercial" (he was also behind the long-running Speights 'Perfect Woman' campaign). The Murray Grindlay-composed song became a pub anthem.
A series of farming mishaps each provoke the laconic comment — “bugger”. That was the formula behind one of New Zealand’s most iconic advertisements. Made by Saatchi and Saatchi to follow up the beloved Barry Crump/Lloyd Scott Toyota ads, and directed by Tony Williams, it attracted 120 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (who ruled that “bugger” was unlikely to cause serious offence). The shock value of that word, the role of Hercules the dog, and the performance of the hapless farmer (in the tradition of Fred Dagg and Footrot), made for Kiwi pop culture magic.
This 2011 anti-drink driving ad campaign became a Kiwi pop cultural phenomenon, spawning countless parodies, memes, t-shirts and over a million YouTube views; phrases from the ad entered the vernacular (“you know I can’t grab your ghost chips”). Eschewing the usual shock and horror tactics, the Clemenger BBDO campaign for the NZ Transport Agency was targeted at young male Māori drivers, and used humour to get the message across that it was choice to stop a mate from driving drunk. Directed by Steve Ayson, it won a prestigious D&AD Yellow Pencil award in 2012.