What we can learn from the latest viral recruitment campaign for New Zealand Police

The Brief chats to the team behind one of last year’s most successful recruitment campaigns, which was viewed by more than 1.2 million and shared over 20,000 times within the first 24 hours. Find out how they achieved it and the lessons they have learnt.

It would be a fair call to say that New Zealand Police have achieved what many of us in the industry dream of – a recruitment campaign which was viewed more than 1.2 million times and shared 20,000 times in the first 24 hours post-launch.

The campaign was produced by New Zealand advertising agency Ogilvy, led by Executive Creative Director Regan Grafton.

Grafton spoke with The Brief and explained the brief the agency received from NZ police was to attract 650 new recruits over a 12-month period.

“The campaign was to target 18 to 24-year-olds with an emphasis on females of all ethnicities as well as Maori, Pacific and Asian (both male and female),” Grafton said.

“They also wanted fit and active people who enjoyed working as part of a team.

“Females and ethnic minorities can perceive joining the police as a serious and potentially life-threatening career. We wanted to communicate our message in a way that didn’t reinforce this negative image and that was why we went with a humourous approach.

“We were constantly refining and adding little bits of humour throughout this process to make sure it was entertaining all the way through. The idea of including the running man was a nod to their [NZ Police] previous viral hit, while also talking to those who want to work with youth.”

Grafton said the script for the ad evolved over a period of weeks with collaboration from New Zealand Police, the director Damien Shatford and the Ogilvy creative team.

While keeping the tone light was important, the real success of the campaign comes down to two very basic concepts – being clear about what your message is and who you are trying to reach.

“It’s very important to know your target and understand your client’s business,” Grafton said.

“When we won the account, we went on ‘ride-alongs’ with the police, talked to new recruits and interviewed youth groups.

“Talking about a variety of benefits wasn’t that difficult. The real challenge was the execution of the idea. The logistics of pulling something this complicated together was quite challenging.”

So when in doubt, Grafton and his creative team turned to the ever-gratifying concept of humour to make their point. It is, after all, something which has wide appeal for New Zealanders generally.

“New Zealanders don’t take ourselves too seriously, so we like seeing this reflected in mainstream media,” Grafton said.

“Internationally, maybe they wish they could be a little more like us too.”

One of the most notable moments in the 2:30 video is an extraordinary dancing interlude as an officer helps a senior citizen to cross the street.

Grafton explained that in the original script, a comedian was to come on screen at that point and tell jokes as the older gent slowly makes his way across the road with the assistance of a police officer – also making the point that police work is about helping the community.

The client – New Zealand Police – made the suggestion to include the dancing rather than a comedian and Grafton and his team went with it describing it as “a great call.”
In terms of trying to reach a large volume of people with one advertising campaign, Grafton is quite clear.

“Our advice for anyone looking at volume recruitment would be to define your target,” he said.

“Have a meaningful point to communicate and create something really distinctive that sells it.”

Grafton said he also found there was a broad appeal in using real people in the campaign as this connected with those who were being targeted. However, he was quick to add the caveat that this only works if “you’ve got a fantastic director.”

Ogilvy made the most of the resources available to them for the campaign including 70 real police officers, the police band, helicopters, police cats (yes, you read that correctly, cats!), police divers, body builders and stuntmen.

The campaign recorded an 800 per cent increase in traffic to the New Cops website.

While Ogilvy produced both the on-screen and print recruitment campaigns, they also made the decision to value-add to the project by releasing an extended (2:59) version of the video on YouTube complete with out-takes.

“We thought adding the out-takes at the end would give some extra entertainment value,” Grafton said.

“We had noted this approach had worked at the end of comedy movies.”

To view the video visit the New Zealand Police Recruitment YouTube channel.

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