19 August 2014

Dirty Politics: Who’s been damaged?

Almost a week since Nicky Hager dramatically changed the 2014 election campaign with ‘Dirty Politics’, his book is still making headlines, but it’s not clear where the damage resides. Only time – and opinion polls – will reveal if the tide’s going out on John Key, the National Party and the right. However, there’s still potential for the left to sustain damage, depending on how each side handles the story and what details are revealed.

So far, the National Party are feeling the most heat as journalists pick through the book, revelation by revelation. The pressure could come back on the left if the National Party has been able to convince New Zealanders that the book itself is dirty politics (Steven Joyce’s favourite line) or if the source of the hacked emails is disclosed and – crucially – if links can be drawn to left-wing parties.

Key and the right have primed the public not to believe Hager or the media. For many, Hager is the boy who cried wolf. Except Hager has emails detailing the wolf’s existence and villagers keep begrudgingly coming forward to confirm his sightings.

If you follow the debate on social media, it’s obvious hard-core National supporters are outraged by the hatchet job Hager has done on their man, while for those on the left it has just confirmed the nastiness of the right. Their votes aren’t changing. It’s the votes of the less politically-engaged that will be the difference.

Both National and Labour will be holding their breath until the next round of polls, which will gauge if people are changing their votes and who’s benefitting.

Unfortunately for Labour, unless it can sell itself as a viable Government in the coming weeks – something it hasn’t been able to do in the past three years – the main beneficiaries of votes lost by National are going to be NZ First or the Conservatives. National has taken every opportunity to ram home the message that Labour are an incoherent mess. Disaffected National voters will likely want to shift their votes to other parties with a stronger moral compass to send a message, but not necessarily to the left.

There are interesting times ahead, with many opportunities for missteps as the book unravels the careers of politicians on both sides of the house. The next polls will just show which way the wind is blowing, not the extent of the damage, which by the end of the campaign could be extensive.

20140818-beached whales cartoon - 2

7 August 2014

The perils of rote replies on Twitter

Social media is different to other mediums because it’s social – meaning: spontaneous and personal. Rote replies and automatic tweets break that unwritten rule. The result is tweets that are spammy and insincere.

Take the example below that turned up in my Twitter feed the other day. It’s from back in April, but it’s still hilarious.

Embedded image permalink

To be fair to Telstra, one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, they obviously receive thousands of queries and often about the same issues, so a few rote replies are to be expected (my sympathies to the people who have to reply). And to Telstra’s credit, the company does seem to have a sense of humour (including possibly the reply above):

Still, it’s worth noting that the rote replies were picked up on. All that’s needed could be changing a few words to personalise the reply tweet or perhaps offering an explanation as to why all the questions seem to be getting the same answer. A few words could be all that’s needed to make a customer happy.

5 August 2014

Is the London Pass worth it?

Should I buy a London Pass or is it a waste of money? That’s the question many visitors ask.

The London Pass gives you access to some of London’s top paid attractions… for a price. In short: the pass is worth it, but only if you put in the effort to get the most out of it. I bought a six day pass and explored London with a friend. Here’s what we found.

The London Pass is worth it if…

The pass covers attractions you want to do. It’s worth checking out the list on the official website before you buy. Popular sights include the Tower of London, London Zoo and Hampton Court.

The attractions you want to do are pricey. If you do a handful of the expensive sights (such as those above) you’ll quickly make up the cost of the pass.

You want to skip the queue at popular attractions. The pass gives you fast-track entrance at seven attractions. We found this particularly useful at the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

You don’t mind mainly doing paid attractions. Getting the most out of the pass requires you to spend most of your time looking at paid sights, which may mean missing out free museums and galleries that interest you.

The London Pass isn’t worth it if…

The attractions you want to do are free. If your burning ambition is only to see the British Museum, National Gallery or any of London’s other free attractions, then you obviously don’t need the pass.

There’s nothing on the pass that interests you. There’s likely to be something due to the diverse range of attractions the pass covers. But if there isn’t anything, why bother?

The benefits the pass gives you are low value. For many of the free galleries and museums the pass will only get you an audio guide (cost: £3). However, because you’ll spend at least half-a-day exploring these sights, you’re wasting time you could have spent at expensive paid attractions. Bottom line: using the pass on low value attractions makes it less likely you’ll cover the cost of the pass.

You don’t want to plan an itinerary. If you want the kind of holiday where you can spend hours relaxing in a cafe and not thinking too hard - as opposed to planning like demon and running around the city and jumping on and off the tube, then the pass probably isn’t for you.

What we did

I bought a six day London Pass for £97.20 (a 10% discount off the usual price of £108.00). We saw enough to cover the cost of the pass on the third day. Here’s what we saw over the six days...

Day 1 Cost
Westminster Abbey
Banqueting House
Queen's Gallery
Jewel Tower
Day 2
Churchill War Rooms
Tower of London
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Day 3
London Zoo
Kensington Palace
Wellington Arch
Day 4
London Bridge Experience
The Monument
Day 5
Hampton Court
Day 6
Windsor Castle

In the end, I saw £188.48’s worth of stuff - a saving of £91.28.

A few things to note:

  • We spent most of the six days doing only London Pass stuff. I’d seen most of London’s free sights before, so I didn’t feel I was missing out. But if it’s your first time to London and/or you have limited time, you may miss out on some great free galleries and museums.
  • Out-of-the-way attractions such as Windsor Castle and Hampton Court take a whole day to travel to and explore. If you’re using a one or three day pass, you might not cover the cost of the pass if you do these sights, as you won’t get to see anything else. If you’re on a short pass (1-3 days), you’ll want to focus on the sights in central London to get the most from the pass.
  • I wrung more value out of the pass by visiting obscure stuff that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, such as the Jewel Tower and Wellington Arch. These places were curious to visit, but I can’t say they added much to my overall experience of London.
  • My friend only used his pass for five days and didn’t see the ‘extra’ stuff I did and he still saw £152’s worth of attractions.
  • The six day pass makes it easier to cover the cost of the pass - you only have to see £18 worth of attractions a day to break even (roughly 1-2 attractions a day). Whereas the 1 day pass is a more challenging proposition - you’ll be running around London packing in 2-4 sights and there’s more of a chance you won’t cover the cost of the pass. On our busiest day (day 2), we saw £44.90 worth of attractions - still £5 shy of the amount you’d need to break even.
Pass type Cost of pass Amount per day
1 Day Adult Pass
2 Day Adult Pass
3 Day Adult Pass
6 Day Adult Pass
  • We didn’t push ourselves too hard (i.e. we started at 10.30 - 11 am most days) and we could have done more stuff. On two of the days we spent half a day doing non-pass stuff. It’s possible to fit in more attractions, if you’re organised. It also shows that you can fit in free stuff, if you don’t mind sacrificing time you could have spent at paid attractions.
  • I was running out of things to see by the end of the pass. Realistically, there were only 2-3 other attractions left that interested me by the end. As noted earlier, it’s worth looking at what’s covered to make sure you won’t run out of stuff to see if you are using it for three or six days.
  • Notably, St Paul’s Cathedral is no longer on the pass. Other attractions may not be worth your time (e.g. the London Bridge Experience - it wasn’t my cup of tea).

How to get the most out of your London Pass

The longer passes can give more value - The two, three and six day passes present value. You will find the one day pass hard to cover the cost of.

The London Pass + travel option isn’t worth it - You’re better off just getting the pass on its own and picking up an Oyster card and loading a travel card on it for zones 1 and 2. It’ll work out cheaper.

Chunk your sightseeing - free stuff vs paid stuff - For example, if you’ve got a week in London, you could use the pass for three days and spend the other four days doing free stuff.

Plan, plan, plan - It’s the secret to getting the most out of the pass. You’ll need to think about what you want to see and the order in which to see it.

Focus on one area at a time - the London Pass comes with a handy guidebook with a map, which shows you where the pass attractions are located. Travelling long distances between places chews up your time. If you focus on seeing the sites you want to visit in a particular area, that will help you maximise the pass.

Get the pass at a discount - If you visit the London Pass website via the Heathrow Connect page you can get 10% off the price (hint: if you’ve already visited the official pass website and you can’t get the discount, clear your cookies and try again).

14 July 2014

Explaining the chasm: Why is John Key so popular on Twitter and Facebook?

Stuff.co.nz last week reported on the gap that’s opened up in New Zealand politics. Prime Minister John Key has ten times more Twitter followers than the next-most followed party leader, opposition Green Party leader Russel Norman (111,443 vs 11,714 followers). There’s a similar gap between Key and the next-most liked leader on Facebook, NZ First's Winston Peters (151,269 vs 15,810 fans). Despite the fact he doesn’t engage with his followers/fans, Key has built a following.

Why is Key so popular on social media? What can we learn from how his team have used Facebook, Twitter and other social mediums? In many ways, John Key and his staff have been social media pioneers. But let’s start with the most-obvious reason for his massive haul of likes/follows.

The #1 blindly-obvious reason: He’s popular

John Key is about as popular as politicians get. On Facebook people tend to only ‘like’ things/people they actually like. Facebook Pages are a cross between a bumper sticker and a newsletter. They let people show affiliation and/or let them receive updates from that organisation/person/band/etc. People who like Key want to be associated with him and - probably - want to hear from him too. Things are more complicated on Twitter as it’s information-based rather than relationship-based so a person’s reason for following someone aren’t as clear cut, but that’s where reason two comes in...

People love a bandwagon

The bandwagon effect says that popular things become more popular because they’re popular. People love a winner. The leader of any country will attract likes and follows. In the same way that people will buy an album because it’s in the number 1 spot, people ‘like’ and follow John Key because others already do.

This is particularly evident on Twitter where people tend to follow/like people who already have lots of followers/likers. Other people are following them, so they must be worth my time, the logic goes. Twitter gives the bandwagon effect a hand by giving users ‘similar accounts’ and ‘who to follow’ suggestions based on who the people they follow follow. Because so many people follow Key, the chance of him being suggested increases.

He’s the Prime Minister

High status individuals get liked and followed on Facebook and Twitter. This is similar, but different to the reason above. However, just because Key has 150,000 fans on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t mean they all like him. There will be the curious, the clueless and even John Key’s opponents. Looking at my list of friend’s who ‘like’ the John Key Facebook Page, of those 11 people, I know that at least two are firmly left-wing.

Key used social media from the start

Social media has been central to the National Party communications strategy from early in Key’s leadership (anyone still using Bebo?). The John Key Facebook Page was set up on Facebook in February 2008. It’s worth remembering that Pages were only introduced by Facebook in November 2007 - two months earlier. Key and his team were at the head of the pack and National dominated that space during the 2008 campaign that took them to victory. Even now, Key can be found on budding social networks. For example, Google+ where he has over 16,000 connections. If Google+ ever takes over as the dominant social platform, he's already got a head start over the competition.

There are spoils for being a social media early adopter. Time has its advantages. As of writing, Key has been on Facebook for 6 years 4 months and 15 days. He’s had time to amass followers (a.k.a. the snowball effect). Back in March 2010, when John Key had an unofficial run-off with the ‘Save Radio NZ’ Facebook Page, he had only had 18,972 fans. Four years and four months later, he has 151,269 fans - that’s another 132,297 fans - eight times the number he had in 2010. Persistence counts.

Another factor is that up until recent times Facebook allowed Pages greater prominence in people’s newsfeeds. Great prominence = more interaction = more organic Page likes. That means more people finding and liking a Page because their friends liked a post, which then showed in their friends’ newsfeeds. There were also less Pages vying for users’ attention in the early days. These days, Page owners complain they have to fork out money for their posts to be seen by their fans or pay for advertisements, like Key’s British counterpart David Cameron controversially did in March this year.

The lessons

So what have we learnt from John Key's social media popularity?

  • Show up early - there are advantages to being ahead of the curve on social media
  • Make the most of the advantages popularity gives you - capitalise on your resources, such as the bandwagon effect... and your communications team
  • Stick it out - building a following take time
  • If that doesn’t work, you can always buy some fans - just ask David Cameron

22 December 2011

The Top 10 New Zealand viral videos and internet memes of 2011

Last year was about swapping Paul Henry videos. This year’s list is a more varied affair with a few late entries. Counting them down from ten to one…

10. Celebrity birds

2011 was the year birds took over the internet. First, there was Sirocco – the Kakapo made famous by mating with the head of Stephen Fry’s cameraman – racking up fans on his Facebook page.


He was followed by Happy Feet, the emperor penguin who washed up on Kapiti Coast beach. His recovery and eventual release was tweeted to great affect by Wellington Zoo.


Then there were the little blue penguins affected by the Rena tanker grounding and the resulting oil spill. The little blues in the wildlife recovery centre in Tauranga gained Maritime NZ dozens of retweets when they tweeted pictures of them.


Finally, Manukura the albino Kiwi caught the nation’s attention, headlines and Facebook Likes.

Manukura Little White Kiwi
What we learned: Birds with personality are a winner.

The numbers:

9. ‘Tindallgate’ - the Queenstown bouncer who dobbed in Mike Tindall

When English rugby player Mike Tindall had an ‘encounter’ with a mystery blonde in a Queenstown bar during the Rugby World Cup, bouncer Jonathan Dixon leaked CCTV footage generating one of the biggest tabloid stories of the year and landing himself in trouble with the law.

What we learned: Anyone with an incriminating video and an internet connection could potentially create havoc for the rich and famous.

The numbers:
  • 99,813 YouTube views
  • Thousands of news articles

8. The ‘Naturally, I finished my set’ guy / Oslo bombing witness

New Zealander Cameron Leslie was working out in an Oslo gym at the time a bomb exploded, the first act in the murderous spree of Anders Breivik who went on to massacre 69 people on an island.

Mr Leslie was interviewed on New Zealand television current affairs show Campbell Live describing how he had cycled for 20 minutes to the gym and was in the middle of bench-pressing 165kgs when the bomb went off.

“Naturally, I finished my set,” Leslie explained.

This lame attempt at humour ensured Leslie entered the internet hall of infamy.

The story gained world-wide attention after popular culture blog Gawker.com featured the video. Later the Huffington Post followed suit. Leslie’s words were even immortalised on a t-shirt… much to his horror.

What we learned: Embarrass yourself on TV and the internet will make sure everyone knows about it.

The numbers:
  • 653,985 views of the TV3 video
  • 290,112 YouTube video views
  • 77,000 views of the Gawker clip
  • One t-shirt

7. Abstain from the game

In September, Telecom NZ decided to promote its support for the All Blacks with a campaign suggesting that fans abstain during the World Cup. The campaign made headlines and outraged fans took to Twitter and the campaign survived for 48 hours before being pulled.

What we learned:
The internet can promote an ad campaign… or end one.

The numbers:
  • Thousands of outraged tweets
  • 29,470 YouTube video views of the uploaded clip (the original upload had many more)

6. #eqnz

This Twitter hashtag isn’t a a viral video or meme as such, but it deserves mentioning. February 22nd was the day social media came into its own. After the devastating earthquake struck Christchurch, users jumped on Twitter to share news, information, rumours and their condolences. The #eqnz hashtag emerged as a way of grouping those tweets.

Ironically, most of the people who needed the information most wouldn’t have been able to access Twitter due to power outages and overloaded cellphone networks.

What we learned:
Twitter can be a powerful tool for sharing information... and misinformation.

The numbers:
  • Thousands of tweets using the #eqnz hashtag

5. Snowpocalypse

In August, a freak weather system brought snow to parts of New Zealand that hadn’t seen snow in 30 years.
Visiting actor Stephen Fry declared that ‘New Zealand has officially gone mad’ as people rushed outside to take photographs and make snowmen. Those people then rushed back inside and jumped on Facebook and Twitter to share those photos with friends and family.


‘The Day It Snowed in Wellington’ Facebook page appeared out of nowhere and gained over 10,000 fans over a couple of days. Thousands of blurry cellphone images were uploaded to Twitter. And the below video made the front page of the New Zealand’s news websites…

What we learned: People love sharing their experiences with each other.

The numbers:
  • 16,780 fans – the ‘That time it snowed in Wellington’ Facebook page
  • Thousands of tweets using the hash tags #snowpocalypse and #snowmageddon

4. Planking

Planking (noun): an activity involving being photographed lying on a horizontal surface face down, arms at your sides, body straight from head to toe.

It was big in Australia before it hit New Zealand. The rise of this fad in Kiwiland ironically arose with the death of a man in Australia in May who fell off the balcony of his apartment while attempting to plank. “Aussie PM warns against planking fad” blared the headlines on NZ news sites.

And then everyone jumped on board, fanning NZ Planking Facebook pages and uploading images by their dozens.


The height of planking’s popularity came when NZ Prime Minister John Key’s son, uploaded a picture of himself planking on a couch with his dad looking on in bemusement (or doing a ‘vertical plank’ as some wits put it).

Since then, interest in planking has flared out and it’s hardly had a mention since August.

What we learned: Internet fads can disappear as quickly as they arrive.

The numbers:
  • 16,571 fans of the New Zealand Planking Facebook page
  • Thousands of planking images uploaded

3. Ghost chips

This kooky ad campaign from the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) featured a young guy at a party “internalising a really complicated situation” regarding what would happen if he let his best mate drink and drive.

As well as being mighty entertaining, it also introduced the phrases “Monique says you’re dumb” and “ghost chips” into the New Zealand vernacular. As of writing this sentence, it’s racked up over a million and half views – a fact well-publicised by NZTA.

What we learned:
It’s possible to create an ad campaign that can become a genuine viral hit.

The numbers:
  • 1,543,504 YouTube video views

2. Flash hakas

As the Rugby World Cup descended on New Zealand, kiwis took the streets and shoppping malls to perform spontaneous haka. It started at the Sylvia Park shopping mall in Auckland. Soon flash hakas were popping up all over New Zealand.

What we learned: Everyone loves a bandwagon.

The numbers:
  • 1,248,746 YouTube video views – Sylvia Park flash haka
  • Dozens of flash hakas throughout New Zealand

1. Nek minnit

One of NZ’s first-ever bonefide internet memes is also one of the dumbest. First uploaded to YouTube as “Negg Minute” on May 8th 2011, the premise is this:
In a 9 second video clip Dunedin-based skateboarder Levi Hawken says in an accent “left my scooter outside the dairy” [pause – camera pans down to remains of scooter] “nek minnit”.
That’s it. Seeing is believing.

Soon everyone was using the term to describe unexpected events. Such as the arrival of new right-wing political party the Conservatives


The high point (or the low point, depending on your perspective), was Radio NZ’s Kim Hill using the term in a promo for her Saturday Morning show, much to the disgust of the commentariat.

While undoubtably the biggest meme/viral video of year, it’s still to be seen whether Nek Minnit has international appeal… or staying power for that matter.

What we learned: Memes can arrive from the most-unexpected of places.

The numbers:
  • 1,813,944 YouTube video views
  • Thousands of parody videos and images
  • A new entry into the Kiwi vernacular

3 January 2011

Reply in 3 Sentences and Other Communication Resolutions for 2011

Here are 5 simple ways to communicate better in 2011.

Slap them on your new year’s resolutions list and make them part of your communication habits.


1. Reply in 3 sentences

Email is a time-consumer. Reply in 3 sentences or less. It’s faster for you and the person you’re corresponding with.

2. Use helpful subject lines

Let people know what your message is about before they open it. ‘Office on Holiday – 24 Dec-7 Jan’ is better than ‘Office Hours’ or – worse – a blank subject line.

3. Write short

It’s faster, clearer and it’ll help you get things done. It’s certainly easier to write a 300 word blog post, than a 1000 word monster. Join Twitter for some practice.

4. Be part of the conversation

Get on Twitter, use Facebook, blog regularly. Connect with your friends. Get involved with your professional community. Use social media to understand it.

5. Write to be read… on the internet

The oldest rule of ‘good communication’? – write to be read. But people don’t read on the internet, they skim. Help your readers with headings and short paragraphs.

So there ya go – five pieces of advice to make communication in 2011 faster, clearer and easier to understand.

Happy New Year, everyone!

24 December 2010

How KFC Made Fried Chicken a Christmas Tradition in Japan

Taking your family out for fried chicken on Christmas Day? If you lived in Japan you would.

KFC'sSanta Colonel Sanders

In 1974, KFC ran a campaign that convinced the Japanese people that foreigners living in their country eat chicken at Christmas time due to a lack of turkey - or so the legend goes.

The campaign somehow morphed into a Japanese tradition with families booking months in advance to secure a table at KFC on Christmas Day for some festive grease. All marketers should be so lucky.

KFC Japan 2010 Christmas Selection

All together now:

“Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!)

Behold this Japanese KFC ad that will either have you licking your lips or rolling your eyes.

And if you thought it couldn’t get any weirder, Colonel Sanders is a cult figure in Japan and most people think KFC is a Japanese company.

As marketers around the world start salivating in anticipation of making fried chicken a global Christmas treat, it’s reassuring to know that some Japanese successes - like J-Pop - will never make it outside Japan’s cultural bubble.

So let’s hear it for the Japanese, a people who’ll apparently do anything as long as you tell them foreigners were doing it first.