Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Pinetree still the king in lucrative land of ads

Ssang Yong advert featuring Colin Meads.  Photo / supplied
Ssang Yong advert featuring Colin Meads. Photo / supplied

The Briscoes Lady has been around forever but she's got nothing on Colin Meads when it comes to TV sales longevity.

Forty years after hanging up his mud-crusted, high-cut boots, the mighty Pinetree is the advertising frontman supreme and counting, with a small truck and circulation booster his latest product endorsements.

While other All Blacks fade away from public view, the everyman legend has remained a sporadic constant on screen, selling everything from the bread you eat to the sort you get from a finance company - with too many others for him to recall in between.
For a man whose career earnings were mired not far from zero under the amateur rugby rules, this is an irony... although one that escapes him.

"Things sort of happen and I've never really thought about [it] that way," he says in a voice which isn't quite as deep as one imagines.

Apart from the adverts, there is also a public-speaking career which has always been booming. Early on, the proceeds went to an IHC farm project in his home town of Te Kuiti, the beginning of a major contribution he made to that organisation. Nowadays, at the tender age of 76, our much-loved national icon is still on the road as a public speaker, a sideline career which has become a way of life organised in a homespun way by his diary-wielding wife Verna.

Times have changed?
Even when I wrote my first book, I wasn't allowed to take any money. I had to make a trust to remain part of rugby and none of my family were [allowed] to be trustees. It was a long time ago and hard to remember... you could get mates to be the trustees which was the way around it.

Can you remember all your products?
Goodness, fill me in. The main one early on was tanalised fence posts - the wife is just telling me I did one with hay twine. We threw bales of hay around a shed. But you've got me beat - there were a lot of good times, a lot of fun. There was the Nissan Patrol in the early days - I'd take it too far and they'd have to pull me out with a tractor. There was an electric razor that didn't last long.

Do you have an agent?
I did once but the wife has been the boss. She carries the calendar. As the wife says: "Once he gave up rugby I thought that would be it, but now he's busier than ever." Verna's my agent but she doesn't go on the road much anymore, she's had health issues

How many speaking engagements do you do in a year?
You can't do them all. Some are on the celebrity speaker circuit and some companies ask me to speak on a personal basis. I'll do 30 or 40 in a year. I've got 12 or 15 in the diary already this year. Fellas ring you up, fellas you've had a connection with through life. Come September they'll ring and say they want you for next year. I'll say, "Hang on, I haven't got my diary for next year yet. Ring me at the end of the year." Remember Dick Tayler the athlete? He's with a pokie machine company and we do a lot together all over the South Island.

Exotic assignments?
I went to Wales with [Phil] Kingsley-Jones last year and did 14 speaking commitments in 18 days. About 12 years ago people in South Africa were trying to raise money for security for farmers. A lot of farmers were getting knocked off. They would come home from church or somewhere and get blasted to bits. Some wiseguy over there said let's get Frik du Preez, Willie John McBride and Colin Meads - our wives went and we had a fabulous time. Frik told jokes in Afrikaans then apologised to us later, saying they weren't very funny in English. Frik said they didn't raise much money because it was poorly organised.

You must have a well worked routine by now...
I never use notes. I just say whatever comes. I'll talk for 30 or 40 minutes, whatever they want, and sometimes it goes all bloody night.

Any more ads in the pipeline?
Not at the moment. There's a film-making couple who have just won an award who called around the other day... wanted me to narrate a voiceover.

Have you ever turned an ad down?
I did one for a finance company [Provincial Finance] and they were good people, and it's sad what happened. They went bust and you get a lot of criticism. I had money in it, too, that's what I had to tell people. All the money I was earning from the ads was staying in there and I never saw any of it.

What about your latest ad?
The circulation booster people rang up and said they wanted a popular New Zealander, as they told me. I wouldn't advertise it unless I'd tried it because my feet do swell up a bit at night you know - us old buggers get that. I tested it for a month and agreed to do the ad. People ask me what they cost and I say I'm really not too sure.

And the SsangYong truck?
I drive one of their utes and they put a PineT number plate on it. Everyone in New Zealand seems to know who is in it and they toot and wave.

The ads have helped keep you in the public eye...
The offers just kept coming in. It's strange really. It's kept my image out there I suppose, reminded people that I'm still around.

Colin Meads has endorsed:

• Tanalised fenceposts
• Baling twine
• Remington Razors
• Nissan Patrol
• SsangYong
• Honda ATVs
• Bob Charles' Deer Velvet
• Vogel's Bread
• Lifejacket safety awareness
• Provincial Finance
• Mastercard
• Mainland Cheese
• Revitive Circulation Booster

- NZ Herald

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