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Political Marketing Expert Taken Aback By TVNZ 7 English Ad

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Bill English
Bill English

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, Oct 28 NZPA - A TVNZ 7 ad featuring Finance Minister Bill English looked so much like a party political broadcast that a political marketing specialist thought the rules had changed.

Massey University's Claire Robinson also told NZPA the ads were worth a fortune -- hundreds of thousands of dollars -- and National probably couldn't have afforded to pay for them if they had been charged.

The ad promotes TVNZ 7's Focus on the Economy show but has raised eyebrows because it is so favourable to Mr English.

Labour has complained to the state broadcaster about it.

The 45 second ad started playing on October 18 and will run until November 21 after being shown 130 times on TV One, TV2, TVNZ 6 & TVNZ 7.

In the ad Mr English talks about how New Zealand "can beat those Aussies" and it was time for some "old-fashioned Kiwi can-do" to turn around the economy.

"We're nearly through the tough times and things are looking up....together, us Kiwis can do it," he said.

TVNZ 7 then pledges to translate the recession into plain English, which is also the name of Mr English's personal newsletter.

Parties cannot advertise except during election campaigns and at those times are under restrictions about how much they can spend.

"When I saw it in the weekend I was completely confused because it was so much like a National Party political ad, especially the ad they had featuring Bill English in 2002," Dr Robinson said.

"My first thought was National must have somehow found a way of getting around the election broadcasting rules to be able to advertise outside of campaign time."

She was shocked when she realised it was a TVNZ ad.

"I thought what on earth is going on? Why is TVNZ using a political advertising format to market one of its shows? I was very confused."

Dr Robinson said TVNZ had a wealth of experienced journalists and people with political knowledge to draw upon who would have rung alarm bells about the ad's style and content.

"I don't think it's appropriate for a state broadcaster to be using that sort of format to publicise their own TV shows."

After the first ads ran Dr Robinson waited expected to see other politicians featured, but none came.

"It just seemed a very unbalanced way of approaching this sort of promotion and meaning that all the emphasis went on to the National Party perspective on the economy and no one else's."

She said the ad should be pulled or balance inserted -- although that would raise expectations from minor parties as well as Labour.

"Suddenly you're into an election campaign again where everybody thinks they need to have their own share of the pie. They've opened up a can of worms in this regard."

Another issue was Mr English's image and tagline promoting the show was used in banners on news websites.

"TVNZ has unwittingly given National an enormous amount of free publicity that they normally would not be able to fund from the party."

The value would be in the hundreds of thousands, she said, and doubted National would have been able to afford it during an election campaign when such ads would be allowed.

"It's in prime time and it's on high rotate. It's worth a lot of money."

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards rejected the criticism and said the ad merely promoted a series about the economy.

She did not accept that National had got free advertising. Mr English was chosen because of his role; "you would be very surprised to find him espousing Labour Party political views".

The material in the promo were things Mr English had previously said.

"I don't think there's an issue around balance and fairness."

She said the play on Mr English's name was designed to draw attention to the complex language politicians and commentators use and how good it would be if people kept it simple.

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