Helping brands to create and serve up content is no foreign task for TVNZ. Integration of commercial partners into TV shows is increasingly common. But having a brand approach it with the funds for an entire TV series is something TVNZ's general manager of content solutions Lyndsey Francis hadn’t experienced until Kiwibank came knocking.
“It’s a pretty big brave, visionary move from them to take a leap like that and go ‘this is our vision for Kiwibank and our purpose and we want to express that through a television show as opposed to a brand ad.’ And that gives them huge exposure, reach and presence,” she says.
Fronted by Nigel Latta, undoubtedly New Zealand’s favourite psychologist, the series will hit screens on 13 February at 8pm on TVNZ 1, and it’s all about tackling the psychology of money by making Kiwis aware of why they do the things they do.
It’s a big step up from the bank’s previous involvement with a TV series, which saw it sponsor a few seasons of The Block NZ. However, this time it wanted something of its own that was aligned with its values.
Francis agrees with the strategy, saying clients that sponsor programmes have restrictions around where they can and cannot play within the formats – many of which are internationally-owned and have strict rules – and it tends to only allow for products to be showcased.
“We have great success with My Kitchen Rules and Kiwi Living, where the client, brand and product is really integrated into the story of that show. Visually, verbally and in-use, and that’s quite powerful as a way of demonstrating what the product can do.”
But Kiwibank doesn’t have a product to be demonstrated. Instead, its mission is to make Kiwis better off and it believes the way to do that is to make them more aware of their behaviour surrounding money.
“They have come and said ‘we believe that there is a financial literacy challenge in New Zealand and we want to help start the conversation about how we can improve that situation,” Francis says.
Though Mind Over Money is the only example Francis can recall of a brand fronting up with all the funding for a TV series, she does make a mention of Purina Pound Pups to Dog Stars, which was funded by Nestle and TVNZ.
The series – also in a primetime slot on TVNZ 1 at 8pm on a Tuesday – shows the rehabilitation of rescue dogs with an aim to change the perception that they are worthless.
However, while similar to Kiwibank in its communication of brand values, Purina’s brand name has been used throughout the series in the food served to the rescue dogs and in the programme name.
Mind Over Money does feature a few logo references, including a ‘Proudly Partnering with Kiwibank’ pop-up, but Francis says the branding is all very light considering the bank’s significant investment.
Instead, the real connection will come through a website, mindovermoney.kiwi, which is set to go live as the series goes to air. On it, visitors will be able to connect with the bank to continue the conversation about their behaviour with money.
Francis says the decision to start a conversation with the series and then continue it on a one-to-one level online shows a great understanding by the bank of the role each medium can play in engaging the consumer.
Kiwibank’s investment in a TV series signals confidence in the medium at a time when digital offerings are taking plenty of the marketing focus. But, as Thinkbox in the UK has said, ‘TV isn’t dead, it’s just having babies’, and while digital options are increasingly popular, they are still small when it comes to mass audience reach. Francis gives the examples of Lotto and Air New Zealand, which continue to invest heavily in TV in an effort to reach the biggest audience. And when you consider Nielsen statistics that show 3.2 million New Zealanders aged 10-plus viewed an average of 23 hours of broadcast TV content through their TV sets across a week in 2015, TV is still the dominant medium.
According to Standard Media Index (SMI), which measures spend from the top 15 media agencies, TV continues to hold the biggest share of New Zealand’s advertising pie. In the past two years, it made up 38.4 percent of all media ad spend followed by a growing digital spend, which made up 31.6 percent.
What’s interesting about Kiwibank’s spend, Francis says, is that while a TV series may seem more expensive than a brand campaign, the dollar for dollar investment on a minute by minute basis is really efficient.
And while the bank’s spend on the project is not public knowledge, NZ On Air’s contribution to partially fund previous Nigel Latta shows gives some insight.: Nigel Latta Blows Stuff Up received $768,430 for eight half hour episodes, The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta received $749,787 of funding for its six, one hour episodes, and The Hard Stuff With Nigel Latta 2 received $1,361,790 for eight, one hour episodes.
Mind Over Money is six half-hour episodes.
Shorts on steroids
Once the series has aired, Kiwibank will have access to some of the series content for further distribution, a model TVNZ has already been offering brands with its Shorts section on TVNZ OnDemand.
Dedicated to short form content, brands such as Microsoft and Fresh Up have collaborated with TVNZ in the creation of short series as a break away from TVCs and found great success.
Last year, Francis told StopPress the series are designed to be entertaining and informative, so audiences feel like they’re watching a programme rather than branded content. However, all have a ‘brought to you banner’ to avoid deceiving the audience.
She added TVNZ’s approach to audiences is different to that of agencies because its business is based on storytelling.
“That’s our bread and butter, from the newsroom to the commissioning and programming team, it's how we actually tell the stories to New Zealanders that really matter.”
Now, with Mind Over Money set to hit screens, TVNZ would like to see other brands follow Kiwibank’s pioneering footsteps to create their own full-length series.
“I think it’s a way for advertisers to think differently in a world where, yes the market is cluttered, yes there are new ways to watch television, yes we still get great effectiveness from TV campaigns, but this is worth advertisers considering to drive that effectiveness,” says Francis.
And for those that do decide to take the leap, her advice would be to talk to TVNZ early, as Kiwibank did.
“We have the ability and the creative talent internally and relationships externally to make things happen,” she says. “And while a year’s development may seem like a long time, it isn’t that far off what it takes to build a brand campaign.”