Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Auckland: Try it and you might even like it

Arrogant? Check.

Pretentious? Check.

Busy and stressful? Double check.

When it comes to the way folk south of the Bombays and north of Brynderwyns see Auckland, the old anti-Jafa sentiment is still there.

But a new insight has also shown that many Kiwis - especially among the more initiated - see their biggest city as vibrant and exciting.

The research, which helped Auckland Tourism to plan its new $800,000 domestic campaign and the accompanying tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating television advert, canvassed the views of 1000 people.

Traffic, crime and "big city arrogance" were among their first thoughts, yet such dislike was most prevalent among people who had seen little of Auckland.

They saw Auckland as congested, unfriendly and expensive, with not much to do - a view at odds with more frequent visitors.

The main reason past visitors didn't recommend Auckland was that other destinations had more to offer.

The findings didn't surprise Jason Hill, acting general manager of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, who observed the same stigma around Tokyo among Japanese when he lived there.

"We were well aware there was a certain level of those perceptions about Auckland, but I guess we were comforted by the fact that 'vibrant and exciting' city was right up there, too," he told the Weekend Herald.

The Rugby World Cup had helped open eyes towards Auckland and change negative views, which the campaign sought to tackle "head-on" while also parodying them.

In pitching Auckland as an international city within New Zealand, with beaches, wineries and events on offer, the advert shows a young Kiwi couple in an alien city, complete with air-kissing glamour girls and a waitress in need of interpretation.

"When we've shown people the TV commercial, they've had a bit of a chuckle and in the main people are understanding of why we have taken the approach we have," Mr Hill said.

"I suppose it's having a bit of laugh at those perceptions, but also hopefully proving maybe they aren't as prevalent as people think."

By last night, it had received nearly 4000 hits on YouTube.

Lee Baker, co-author of spoof travel guide Way of the Jafa, thought the approach was clever.

"I notice they don't play too heavily on Jafa cliches in the ad, but I think it's smart to make use of them."

But the stereotype of the latte-sipping, self-centred Aucklander was "hard-wired" into most Kiwis born outside of Auckland, and he doubted this could ever change.

Travellers' bible Lonely Planet points out how the rest of the country "loves to hate" Auckland, "tut-tutting about its traffic snarls and the supposed self-obsession of the quarter of the country's population that call it home". But it adds: "With its many riches, Auckland can justifiably respond to its detractors: 'Don't hate me because I'm beautiful'."

Many respondents to Auckland Tourism's survey praised the city with one-word descriptions such as awesome, fun, shopping, diverse, dynamic, variety, vibrant and cosmopolitan.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby, another big fan of Auckland, thought the campaign reflected "the Kiwi way".

"We are not overly pretentious and we are prepared to poke fun at ourselves, but how the international market would see it would be quite interesting," he said.

"If you're targeting New Zealand just to visit Auckland, that's fine, but if you're targeting the international market they may need to think, 'Does the international market understand the New Zealand sense of humour?"'

Hamilton deputy mayor and former marketer Gordon Chesterman was more critical. He said it was pointless to trade on Auckland's Jafa stigma, which he saw as nothing but "good-natured banter".

Tourism promoters would be better off offering an attractive price-point to those in the provinces, Mr Chesterman said.

"I think the call to action is a special deal - all of this is just a waste of bloody money."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 23 Sep 2014 16:53:36 Processing Time: 346ms