In early 2020 Tourism New Zealand faced a unique problem. The global pandemic had closed the country’s borders for the foreseeable future, and the 100% Pure New Zealand brand was facing a challenge; to continue to inspire potential travellers and increase brand preference for destination New Zealand in a locked down world.
We decided to market the entire country like a video game by creating a world-first walkthrough tourism experience that showcased the unique aspects of New Zealand’s people, places and culture and allowed Australians to explore New Zealand virtually.
Andrew Waddel, Tourism New Zealand's general manager, Australia: With online gaming increasing and a growing desire for people to play, we needed a way to engage that would give an adventure-starved audience a travel hit and boost desirability to travel to New Zealand.
The idea for PLAY NZ came from strong insight - we saw screen time and internet usage surge to record numbers in 2020 and we realised there was an ever-growing audience of people looking to explore and experience new things while borders were closed.
We wanted to give Australians a place where they could play, and be transported to a land full of adventure, culture and interesting characters set against a backdrop of stunning landscapes.
As Australians eagerly awaited international travel, keeping potential travellers engaged virtually was the most opportunist offering in tourism. We spoke to a younger audience, the ‘first to fly’ 20–35-year-old demographic who had spent their lockdown trapped at home and were online gaming to satiate their appetite for adventure.
PLAY NZ is a rich brand experience that not only showcased the country, it gave people a playful, interactive experience and brought to life the warm and welcoming nature of New Zealand’s people and place.
Launched with a live stream on Twitch, one of Australia’s top gaming influencers, Loserfruit, led thousands on an hour-long journey through the best bits of New Zealand and featured the first-ever “gamer walkthrough” developed by a tourism board, where she “played” the country and interacted live with followers.
Katrina Alvarez-Jarratt, creative director TBWA\Sydney: We set out to address gamers in their context by inviting them to play New Zealand in a new way. Our media strategy was simple; behave like a real ‘new game release’ by showing up in gaming channels and platforms, before encouraging people to PLAY NZ online on our website, and eventually in real life when borders open.
The walkthrough film was also housed on YouTube – the home of walkthroughs – and the vehicle of gaming allowed us to share New Zealand’s unique experiences, people and even culture.
We took regions across New Zealand and developed a game-like experience, allowing future travellers to interact on a deeper level.
Taking cues from the gaming world gave us the perfect vehicle to show the many facets of New Zealand – from friendly characters, to unique experiences, culture and even food and wine.
Everything was considered through a gaming lens. We used a variety of rigs to shoot the film to create the same look and camera positions that you see in role-playing games, creating the illusion that the ‘gamer’ is controlling the camera angle.
All the game interface elements you see within the walkthrough were developed in partnership with our Cultural Advisor Karl Wixon – so that Maori culture and philosophies are embedded throughout.
Of course, marketing the whole country like a game garnered plenty of PR interest as well – broadening our audience from hardcore gamers to the playful at heart.
Finally, we invited future travellers to an immersive hub where they could explore 18x VR180° films, PLAY NZ mythology and downloadables – encouraging itinerary-building behaviours.
All of which led to intent to visit New Zealand post lockdown increasing by +387% and we maintained the #1 position as the preferred destination for Aussie travellers..