For a small nation, New Zealand has a lot to be proud of. It is known for its pristine scenery, world class rugby team, and its talented and affable Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. As the world’s youngest female head of government, Ardern has been making waves internationally, including going viral for bringing her three-month-old baby to a UN general assembly meeting. She has also won praise from the international community, choosing to don the traditional Maori coat when representing New Zealand at major events.
Despite New Zealand’s geographic isolation and relatively small population, Ardern’s overtures have managed to get her country on the world map, though only figuratively. Strangely, New Zealand is often left out in world maps all around the world – at the Central Park Zoo, Starbucks, Ikea, and the game of Risk, among hundreds of others. This happens so often that there is a Reddit thread World Maps without New Zealand featuring thousands of photos of maps that have excluded the country. The thread has 50,000 subscribers and even has Facebook and Tumblr spin offs, with the tagline “It’s not a very important country most of the time”.
Tourism New Zealand decided to address this pervasive issue with #GetNZonthemap, a tongue-in-cheek campaign featuring Ardern alongside fan favourite Rhys Darby and Lord of the Rings director Sir Peter Jackson. The campaign was designed to poke fun at how often and easily New Zealand is forgotten. The cheeky video has Darby seeking answers to solve this conspiracy – could Australia be behind this in a bid to steal New Zealand’s tourists; the All Blacks’ rival, England; or possibly France protecting its wine industry from New Zealand’s famous Sauvignon Blanc? An alternative conclusion points to the fact that New Zealand has been written off simply because it looks like a “half-eaten lamb chop”.
#GetNZonthemap is a brilliant public diplomacy campaign. The video was an instant hit, racking up almost five million views within weeks. Ardern’s appearance in the video definitely helped boost numbers, as more than one million views came from her social media channels. The video, borne out of a $150,000 campaign, was covered by large international media outlets, amassing media coverage worth over $8 million and counting. The video came at a spectacular time too – it was launched following Ardern’s official tour of Europe, which had generated significant media attention. The video presented her as even more likeable than we already knew, and her involvement transformed a relatively small tourism campaign into a major public diplomacy tool. The government also rallied behind the joke, adapting it to use on their website’s 404 error page.
The campaign ends on a hopeful note, with the second video instalment offering a solution to this conspiracy. How do we stop New Zealand from being left off the map? Get a map that places it right in the centre!
New Zealand is no stranger viral videos. Various New Zealand government agencies and non-profit organisations have used amusing and engaging videos to spread awareness of important topics, bringing serious issues like racism, homophobia, and drink driving into discussion. Tourism New Zealand has played on this strength and created a public diplomacy campaign that is accessible to everyone.
Tourism New Zealand and Ardern show that humour is a powerful tool that can start a global conversation. The video campaign keeps the mood jovial, encourages viewers to learn more about New Zealand, and inspires the pedantic cartographer in all of us.