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A look back at Air New Zealand’s history of distinctive safety briefings

New Zealand’s media outfits have swarmed on the prey of Air New Zealand’s debatable campaign: described by some as a ‘high gloss cultural cringe safety video’, ‘grossly insensitive’ and ‘distasteful’.

But what do other corners of New Zealand think? And what will it mean for our largely successful and relatively earnest, Air New Zealand?

According to social media measurement tool, Zavy, the social media feedback and sentiment to the ad was reported “overwhelmingly positive”. Its key channel of Facebook attracted a net positive sentiment of 50 percent – the highest of all of Air New Zealand’s posts in the past 30 days.

According to Zavy’s chief executive, David Bowes, Air New Zealand’s shares and comments enjoyed high levels of engagement and were largely met with positive sentiment. According to key Facebook metrics by Zavy, ‘The world’s coolest safety video’ experienced: 3,182 total engagement (shares, likes, comments) and 52 percent net positive sentiment.

Comparatively, the ‘Fantastical Journey’ safety video, which is the most recent example, experienced 22,750 total engagement, and 31 percent net positive sentiment. It is important to note, the metrics for the Fantastical journey are considered from its release eight months ago. 

For the sake of context, the ‘world’s coolest safety’ video features Hollywood actor and environmentalist, Adrian Grenier, who briefs the audience on aircraft safety, while simultaneously presents factual information on Antarctica’s ecosystem. The video shows kids watching on television at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, gawking at the scarce landscape and foreign wildlife. Key locations featured in the safety video are Scott Base, Ernest Shackleton’s hut and the Dry Valleys.

Additionally, the latest campaign broadcasts Air New Zealand’s role in environmental and scientific research in the region. 

However, what is not featured in the campaign has taken much of the spotlight – the video is being widely scrutinized for two key issues: no recognition for the 1979 Mt Erebus disaster which killed 257 onboard Air New Zealand flight 901, and how it presents a possible misconception of Antarctica in that it is a viable place for tourists to visit, which is not recommended given the fragile environment.

Stuff posed a question asking when the airline was “going to stop its safety video onslaught of cringe?”, the son of an Mt Erebus victim wrote on The Spinoff that the ad was grossly insensitive and reminded him of his father’s death, and Antarctic expert Lewis Pugh told Radio New Zealand the video needs to be withdrawn immediately.  

However, other media responses have congratulated Air New Zealand’s investment in research on Antarctica, such as an article published on The Spinoff which relates to Air New Zealand’s partnership with the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute that forges a bid to inform and prevent the beast of climate change.

On the campaign front, Air New Zealand has run these whimsical safety campaigns for many years, and for an airline running on a relatively small budget it has done exceptionally well to access such a healthy global audience. However, it’s fair to say that some campaigns have hit the mark, and others haven’t.

While some are exceptionally clever, others are more risky, such as the ‘Bare essentials of safety’ campaign in 2009, which showcased naked flight attendants instructing precautionary safety procedures. According to Air New Zealand, since that original ad, it has attracted 150 million views online for its collective safety videos.

Later it employed the eccentric fitness guru Richard Simmons as the main character for its flight safety campaign in 2011.

Furthermore, Air New Zealand leveraged Peter Jackson’s golden child The Hobbit and forged it into a safety campaign. The campaign’s success flourished a relationship between Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand who penned a significant extension to its marketing partnership in 2014.

 ‘Safety in paradise’ in 2014 evoked plenty of controversy for featuring bikini-clad models from Sports Illustrated.

For all its controversy, Air New Zealand has plenty of accolades. Last year, StopPress commended the company for its brave moves and its willingness to address criticism head-on in its Sustainability Report, including previous issues regarding gender and sustainability. Like Z Energy, it has openly admitted its role in climate change, but is taking steps to mitigate its impacts. 

However, in the case of its Antartica video Air New Zealand isn’t relenting in the face of criticism.

Jodi Williams, general manager of global brand and content, says the company is extremely pleased with the huge number of comments from people all around the world acknowledging the effort that Air New Zealand is making to shine a spotlight on the important climate science being conducted by Kiwis in Antarctica.   

Williams adds the decision to film in Antarctica was not taken lightly and the company was very conscious of the sensitivities around Antarctica.

“Air New Zealand is committed to its sustainability efforts which includes our long-term partnerships with Antarctica New Zealand and the New Zealand Antarctica Research. We believe that by showcasing the climate science being undertaken by Kiwi scientists to people right around the world we will generate more conversations about extremely important environmental issues.”

All of which reminds us of the famous online interaction between Sir Richard Branson and brash comedian Frankie Boyle.

A version of this story first appeared at StopPress.

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