Geoff Dixon began making commercials in the 70s — the decade he launched legendary ad company Silverscreen Productions, whose clients included Cadbury, Toyota, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines. Ranging across New Zealand and beyond, his work includes iconic images of South Island back roads, Barry Crump crashing utes through the bush, and Michael Hurst singing a war cry for the Kiwi bloke.
Once our commercials started winning international awards, the phone calls began coming in. Geoff Dixon
Vincent Ward's fifth feature follows an Irishwoman in 1860s New Zealand, as Māori tribes resist the occupation of their land by the British. Sarah (Samantha Morton) has had an affair with a Māori and borne his child. Years later the boy is kidnapped by his grandfather, a powerful tribal leader. Sarah embarks on a search for her child, aided by warrior Wiremu (Cliff Curtis). When she finds him, both mother and son must decide to which culture they belong. This excerpt from the notoriously ambitious film sees Sarah encountering charismatic chief Te Kai Po (Temuera Morrison).
Loosely based on the case of a real-life computer dealer who acquired international bank records and later died mysteriously on Auckland Harbour Bridge, Spooked marked Geoff Murphy’s first local movie in 15 years (after time directing in Hollywood). Everyman Kevin (Christopher Hobbs) is caught up in a barrage of intimidation after buying some used computer equipment and unwittingly receiving corporate secrets; Cliff Curtis plays the journalist investigating his case. There are also rare cameos by director Vincent Ward and Goodbye Pork Pie star Kelly Johnson.
Toyota launched its classic Welcome to Our World campaign in late 1989, to support the company's sponsorship of the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the Sesqui 1990 festival. This version was put together for the 1995 America’s Cup and Rugby World Cup. But there is minimum product placement in the heart-warming montage of Aotearoa landscapes and people, set to country singer John Grenell’s baritone take on the Jim Reeves song. The Geoff Dixon-directed campaign ran for a decade; the song topped the Kiwi charts when it was released in early 1990.
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.
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.
In this 1985 Colenso commercial, a Creme Egg is a guilty pleasure behind raised desk lids for two school kids. Courtesy of some smooth copywriting, the narrator lets on that the cherubic girl and devious boy are doomed by the “smooth shell of Cadbury dairy milk chocolate and the irresistible creamy flowing yolk that will ultimately give them away!” The Murray Grindlay composed chorus “don’t get caught" (with egg on your face) entered Kiwi pop culture. Variations of the commercial ran until 1996; in 2016 stuntwoman Zoe Bell later shared her fondness for the product on Instagram.
This Contact episode goes behind the scenes on a big budget commercial from the early days of the Kiwi film renaissance: a 1982 Crunchie bar ad which owes so much to Star Wars, the film crew even call their villain Darth. After 12 hour days working inside the Waitomo Caves, a move to Ninety Mile Beach sees the weather playing havoc with sets and schedules. Seeking fresh faces, commercials king Geoff Dixon (Crumpy and Scotty) cast his lead actors in Australia. Television adverts were even made to announce the arrival of the ad — which plays over the closing credits.
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.
Rodeo thrills and spills — Kiwi style — are on display in this doco following two cowboys travelling the circuit in a '50s Chrysler. They compete in events in Fairlie, Rerewhakaaitu and Warkworth, and encounter American stars along the way. Broncos, calves and bulls are ridden, wrestled or roped; but pride of place goes to spectacular shots of them using rodeo skills to capture deer by helicopter. Cowboy up indeed. A parade, the 'Cowboy's Prayer' and fearless rodeo clowns also feature. Legendary commercials maker Geoff Dixon (founder of company Silverscreen) directs.