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Tina [and capitalism] is alive and well

You know you’re doing well when the death rumours start circling.

Last month, the internet was set ablaze by the apparent tragic passing of Tina from Turners – you know, from the adverts. Who loves cars.

“Tina from Turners died” started trending on Google – increasing by 250 per cent over 24 hours. “I cried when they said it on the radio,” a distraught fan lamented via Tik Tok. “Our whole class was sad,” another replied.

As it transpired, everyone’s favourite polo-wearing auto enthusiast was very much alive. Rock legend Tina Turner, who died on May 24, wasn’t as lucky. Young Kiwis – the state of your musical knowledge has me concerned. In fairness, the two Tinas’ names do sound similar …

I’ll admit it: New Zealand does television commercials well. Evident from Tina’s “demise”, our strength seems to be creating relatable, effortlessly charming, and relentlessly chipper characters that become inextricably linked to national brands. One does not simply spend a fortune on “reasonably priced” homewares without the effervescent encouragement of “the Briscoes Lady” Tammy Wells. Rotorua radio host LJ Dobbin went a step further and got Wells’ face tattooed on her ankle.

In March, analytics firm The Research Agency surveyed New Zealanders on their favourite adverts, and published the Top 10 “winners” online. Tina came in at number 6, with fans using superlatives such as “hilarious, vibrant, positive, and happy”. Turners must also feel “vibrant and positive” – since their leading lady came along, the business’ market share has increased from below 6 per cent to over 8.5 per cent.

Topping the list was Trustpower’s “Meant to be Together” – featuring an amputee and his three-legged rescue dog. You can’t go wrong with animals. Who else remembers the advert from the 90s with the terrier embarking on a country-wide journey to get home? I’m sniffling as we speak.

Coming in at number 2 was ASB’s series featuring Ben and Amy – the adorable childhood sweethearts hunting for their first home. “Kiwis have become invested in Ben and Amy’s story; they look forward to seeing what comes next,” The Research Agency theorised. I’d say a lot of Kiwis are living vicariously – that first home is looking elusive. The romantic in me, however, is hooked: Ben’s mission to find Amy a house with underfloor heating makes a refreshing change from the “incompetent but hilarious” husband archetype.

The number 3 spot went to ANZ and the Sharma whanau – specifically young Sameer obsessively saving energy to impress his crush. In the three months since the advert launched, 1400 ANZ customers took out loans to fulfil their energy efficiency goals. Hopefully, not for romantic motivation. Advice for Sameer: Save energy because it’s the right thing to do. Girls come and go; climate change is hanging around for a while.

On that note, some of my favourites are Meridian Energy’s “Be Good To Nature” adverts, rated at number 9. I love that Mother Nature is a plus-size woman. Positive representation is important, and you can’t get more positive than the personification of Planet Earth. Especially who can power a wind farm along to an Aretha Franklin soundtrack.

We like to think we’re immune to the wicked charms of advertising. But the survey results would say otherwise. The brand campaigns are working – Kiwis are watching and spending accordingly. And if we’re not opening our wallets, we’re crying over disabled pets, grateful for fuller-figured heroines, and wishing Ben and Amy were a real couple. And mourning Tina’s “death” on TikTok. Because no one loves cars like Tina.

To the advertising executives of New Zealand – well done. To Tina from Turners – you’re living your best life, and that’s awesome.

To parents of young people – play them some Tina Turner. Cheers.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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