100% Incredible

It’s a slogan. Not a guarantee. The furore over Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure campaign would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. The scale of the investment involved in creating what has to be one of the world’s most effective tourism marketing slogans makes the prospect of ditching it deeply unpalatable.

100% Pure has served us well. Continues to serve us well. And should be allowed to work its magic well into the future.

But for this argument to remain credible its proponents need to stop calling black white. Let’s stop trying to kid ourselves, and the world, that 100% Pure is less to do with our great outdoors and more to do with something called “the total visitor experience.”

This Friday seemed to be the Day of Denial. The first time the cock crowed was when advertising supremo Dave Walden took to the airwaves on Radio New Zealand’s ‘Morning Report’ to spin the “total visitor experience” line.

Then came the inimitable Matthew Hooton, claiming in his NBR column that “the 100% Pure campaign was never exclusively or even primarily about the environment.” And that “100% Pure was always about the quality of the visitor experience.”

“Jumping off a bridge tied by the feet to an elastic band is 100 % Pure adrenalin, dining on fresh crayfish and Cloudy Bay is 100 percent Pure indulgence, and so forth.”

As with all the best spin, this argument is rooted in just enough fact to appear eminently credible. But it glosses over the undeniable. Regardless of how it might have later evolved the campaign has its genesis in the sheer spectacle and epic grandeur of this country’s natural wonders.

If we’re to defend 100% Pure we cannot afford to squander credibility on the insane fallacy that the slogan doesn’t speak first and foremost to our environment.

Even a cursory glance at the most recent iterations of the campaign, with the focus on “the total visitor experience”, reveals this legacy. The wine and crayfish-consuming diner does so against a backdrop that screams “drink me in”. The adrenalin junky leaping off the bridge does so in the context of a typically photogenic southern scene.

If the campaign is so divorced from the environmental message, why is that the message seized upon by Hard Talk, the Daily Mail, and Xinhua?

Just one look at the Tourism New Zealand website, with its Lord of the Rings-themed emphasis on the “total visitor experience”, rams home to even the most obtuse the extent to which the campaign still relies on the jaw-dropping awesomeness of our great outdoors.

The imagery of it all, the sub-text, says loud and clear: “come and do all these things in a pristine environment of unparalleled beauty.”

To pretend otherwise is simply to lose credibility.

And, in any case, how does insisting that the slogan relates to the “total visitor experience” steer us clear of the charge of false advertising? A visitor only has to break a leg in an earthquake or be mugged in Paihia for the boast of a 100% Pure total visitor experience to ring horribly hollow.

No – far better to stop arguing that black is white. And instead spend our energies defending the fact that 100% Pure is a slogan. An aspiration. Not a guarantee.

Diamonds are not necessarily forever. Nike-wearing yob-slobs are not going to be able to just do it. And I don’t experience some kind of amazing feeling every time I jump into my Toyota.

It’s advertising. And I suspect even Dave Walden would admit that people are prepared… nay, even expect, to take advertising slogans with a pinch of salt.

Any first-year student of public relations knows that credibility is king. If we’re to defend 100% Pure from the predations of those who would like to see it sacrificed we cannot afford to squander our credibility on the insane fallacy that the slogan doesn’t speak first and foremost to our environment.

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