Getting to Wellywood: National Branding and the Globalisation of the New Zealand Film Industry

By Lawn, Jennifer; Beatty, Bronwyn | Post Script, Winter-Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Getting to Wellywood: National Branding and the Globalisation of the New Zealand Film Industry


Lawn, Jennifer, Beatty, Bronwyn, Post Script


Addressing the Innovation Conference in Christchurch on 7 March 2002, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark outlined her government's ambitions for the nation's economic development:

   We will be working with the private
   sector to develop a consistent brand
   image of New Zealand across all our
   industry sectors, so that we add smart
   and innovative to the clean and green
   image! Currently we are also investing
   millions of dollars in leveraging
   benefit for New Zealand off the release
   of the Lord of the Rings--filmed
   in New Zealand and made by New
   Zealanders, and the second defense--by
   New Zealanders--of yachting's
   premier trophy, the America's Cup.
   Both events can help promote New
   Zealand as technologically advanced,
   creative, and successful--and our
   many other innovators can leverage
   off that brand. (Clark 18)

For a quick grasp of the commercial principles driving the government's vision and its implications for the New Zealand film industry, consider the network of assumptions and associations cohering in the Prime Minister's statement. In neo-liberal fashion, a competitive business model is offered as the paradigm for other spheres of activity, both collective and individual: the country best flourishes when run like a company that carefully cultivates and manages its brand image as its best asset. For, as Peter van Ham approvingly notes in the context of international polity,

   [t]he traditional diplomacy of yesteryear
   is disappearing. To do their jobs
   well in the future, politicians will
   have to train themselves in brand asset
   management. Their tasks will include
   finding a brand niche for their
   state, engaging in competitive marketing,
   assuring customer satisfaction,
   and most of all, creating brand
   loyalty. (6)

As CEO of New Zealand Inc., Clark favours a particular umbrella strategy known as integrated branding. This differs from the thinner concept of brand image in its reach and penetration of all elements of organisational management. Under the integrated branding principle, "all actions and messages are based on the value the company brings to its line of business" (LePla and Parker 2). As Clark recognises, this strategy requires "consistent" behaviour and vision. The national brand should be "supported, reinforced and enriched by every act of communication between the country and the rest of the world" (Anholt 11, italics in original). It demands a high degree of consensus regarding the central values maintained by "all our industry sectors." The government spans public and private interests: reduced to "arbiter ... [of] the repatriation or export of the designs and commodities of difference" (Appadurai 307), the government brokers contracts between New Zealand agencies and transnational capital, leading to such curious spectacles as the Prime Minister appearing on America's The Today Show and talkback radio to promote New Zealand as a safe tourist destination ("I'm Helen, Fly Me," in Philip Matthews' witty title). Creenagh Lodge, whose company Corporate Edge engineered New Zealand's "Orchard of the South Pacific" campaign in Europe, further elaborates that "sophisticated markets increasingly want evidence that there is a mind behind the brand and its offer: a collective and conscious force which can be relied upon to keep the promise set out by the brand" (384). It is thus not sufficient for New Zealand to appear "clean and green" by nature, as the "100% Pure" campaign launched in 1999 suggests (Morgan, Pritchard, and Piggott); the national brand should also communicate human intelligence, identified by Clark as innovation, technological capability, and creativity.

For our present purposes in this paper, Clark's vision of a symbiosis between the creative industries and other business sectors commands particular attention. Essentially, the New Zealand film industry is envisaged as an instrument of cross-sectoral economic development.

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Getting to Wellywood: National Branding and the Globalisation of the New Zealand Film Industry
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