Air New Zealand's safety video is sometimes compared to the Super Bowl of Kiwi advertising.
It's the creative brief that every ad agency would love to get their hands on and it's one of the few ads that Kiwis can't help but watch – even those who claim to hate all advertising.
The agency that inherits the responsibility isn't only required to impress with the latest clip, but also needs to live up to the expectations created by what came before.
Get it wrong and your work could end up as a full-page apology letter published in the Herald - as was the case with the infamous rap safety video released in late 2018.
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Now, after a decade of safety videos, spanning many hits and a few misses, the national carrier has passed this iconic promotional torch to an ad agency that didn't even exist a year and a half ago.
"Safety videos are always evolving and we continually look for partners with a fresh perspective who will push us," said Air NZ's general manager of global brand and content, Jodi Williams, when asked why the airline was changing things.
Formed only in October 2018, Pitchblack has so far maintained a relatively low profile, tinkering in the background and getting its pieces in place.
The agency has, however, raised a few eyebrows around the marketing scene in the last few months, first for being credited as the agency behind the Air NZ teaser campaign for its latest safety video and more recently for being shortlisted as one of three agencies vying for the chunky New World advertising account.
Both these feats are almost unheard of for an upstart agency in an industry where reputation reigns supreme and where big clients still prefer to partner with big agencies.
Principal partners Josh Moore and Jono Key took a punt by starting their own business alongside 11 other founding partners, after spending years in internationally owned network agency Y&R NZ.
Part of the reason they've been lying low is because of standard contractual restraints that precluded them from promoting their new business after leaving the network agency.
"Initially we were concerned about whether or not we should be more visible, but then as the business grew, we realised it was actually a real benefit because it kept us focused on the business and not the politics," says Moore.
All 13 founding members of the business, now headquartered in a heritage building on Auckland's Drake St, invested in its formation and have been given varying degrees of equity.
"We've all been working together for between five and seven years," says Moore.
"We didn't want to start from nothing and try to build the agency. We already knew we had a good agency among those we already worked with."
Since its launch, Pitchblack has added a handful of staff but Moore says he isn't in a rush to expand its core agency too rapidly.
"We've spoken about it and we really think the maximum we want is around 30 staff," Moore says.
"You see this all the time. When agencies get too big, they get vulnerable. They get too messy and everything gets really slow … I think it's a mistake to bring in too many people and to think numbers equal revenue."
Moore refers here to the proverbial dead zone that creative agencies often hit when they grow too quickly and hire too many staff. Problems start to emerge as the agency gets too busy and can no longer give clients unlimited access to their key creative talent.
Moore's emphasis on speed is also important as marketers now demand not only good creative ideas, but those ideas delivered quickly. There have been a few examples in the last year of agencies losing business specifically because they were viewed as a little too slow.
To counter this problem, Pitchblack has also launched with a production arm, designed to look after pieces of work that need to be turned around a bit more rapidly.
"The production side is probably the biggest growth opportunity because we need more and more technical people to deliver the work, but I think the IP can remain in this smaller group."
The days of Pitchblack flying under the radar have, however, come to an end as the agency adds the 20th edition to Air New Zealand's safety video canon.
All eyes will be on the clip – and an audience that's been spoilt with creative treats over the years will not hold back their criticism if they think it falls flat.
While previous editions have always featured a series of international cameos and major stars, this year's video takes on a distinctly Kiwi flavour, featuring local talent, including a quirky takahē. It's a feel-good spot that almost feels like a kids' film that mum and dad won't mind watching along with the little ones.
This video also lands amid a dose of transtasman competition, with Qantas this week releasing its own big-budget safety video, themed on the company's centenary year. Will the Aussies or the Kiwis do it better?
On a more concerning level, this promotional activity comes at a time when the nation's national carrier finds itself at a financial crossroads, as a number of international forces converge and put pressure on the company's bottom line.
The company's result out this week showed a 32 per cent slump in half-year profit to $101 million – and that was before the impact of coronavirus.
The airline also warned this week that the global outbreak is likely to shave $35m-$75m off its earlier revenue forecasts.
Despite these issues, the company has stuck with its marketing guns, releasing not only the safety video but also further information about its Skynest sleeping pod this week.
Asked why the business was continuing its marketing activities at a time when revenue was being squeezed, Air NZ's Williams says marketing is essential during tougher times.
"Being visible and present even during challenging times is extremely important," Williams says.
"All our marketplaces are always competitive and sustained presence is a key to delivering positive results."
In many ways, the positioning of the new video is serendipitous for the airline. The distinctly local approach comes at a time when Air NZ will be relying heavily on domestic travel to counter some of the losses suffered in the international market.
The full impact on the tourism market was illustrated earlier in February, with the Government announcing it would invest a further $11m to attract international tourists and promote local travel.
One thing's certain: Air New Zealand will hope its new safety video hangs around longer than coronavirus.
Five of the best safety videos:
To avoid reader animosity, these videos have been listed in no particular order.
Rhys Darby delivered a great performance in this nostalgic adventure through virtually every genre that cinema has thrown at us.
Grylls may have some terrible eating and drinking habits, but he did showcase some beautiful scenery while also offering a few entertaining safety tips.
Men in Black
This one makes the list simply for the bravery of Israel Dagg in daring to rap awkwardly alongside Stan Walker.
Richard Simmons and Betty White
Nothing like a couple of old-school celebs to give the audience a dose of nostalgia and make us consider dusting off the spandex again.
The Lord of the Rings
Although we can now blame this video for typecasting New Zealand as the land of Hobbits rather than actual humans, this one was a huge hit among international travellers when it launched.