NZ Post has returned its focus on middle New Zealand with an endearing Christmas ad that celebrates the white lies of the festive season.

The narrative is centred on a family's Secret Santa experience and tells the story of all the little lies the mum, dad and kids tell each other – and the way the smiling Postie helps to keep everything under wraps. All this plays out to a choir-sung version of Fleetwood Mac's Little Lies, which quickly worms its way into the viewer's ear.

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Developed by Auckland-based FCB and launched on Sunday night, the "festive fibs" campaign marks a change in direction from some of the more divisive marketing NZ Post has released in recent years, most notably an ad featuring dance icon Parris Goebel.

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"The previous campaign was very polarising, but this is the home of New Zealand Post right in Middle New Zealand," says FCB chief creative officer Tony Clewett.

Clewett says that while the phrase "Middle New Zealand" is often used disparagingly, there are many Middle New Zealand qualities that resonate across the country and continue to define what it makes New Zealand special.

"Middle New Zealand is New Zealand. It's the New Zealand story. It's the iconic New Zealand brand," says Clewett.

NZ Post has in recent years provoked ire among some members New Zealanders due to increased costs associated with sending letters, including a 10 cent spike in July this year.

This was increase was necessary to offset the hit of an annual decline of 60 million mail items sent through its network.

At the end of September, NZ Post reported a loss $121 million in the 12 months ended June 30, compared to a profit of $13m a year earlier when the bottom line was buoyed from its share of Kiwibank profits (the latest result did include a number of one-off payments unique to this year).

However, there was also good news for the business, with the parcels division delivering a profit of $1m on revenue of $417m, turning around a loss of $9m on revenue of $392m a year earlier. Given the increased popularity of online shopping, this remains a massive growth opportunity for the state-owned business.

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The real challenge for NZ Post is marketing the two sides of its business without alienating either target market. On the one side, the advertising needs to give a nod to those still sending millions of letters every year and on the other, the company needs to push it's rapidly growing parcel sending business.

The campaign also gives a subtle nod to the delivery flexibility of the NZ Post service. Photo / Supplied.
The campaign also gives a subtle nod to the delivery flexibility of the NZ Post service. Photo / Supplied.

FCB chief strategist David Thomason says it was a deliberate decision by NZ Post to create an advertising campaign that appealed on an emotional level not only to consumers but also to the businesses – both small and large – using the services every day.

Thomason says it's a big mistake for businesses to forgo creativity when it comes to business-to-business (B2B) advertising.

"We tend we go: 'Ah, the business audience is not emotional, you've got to be direct,'" says Thomason.

"But broadcast emotion gets them just well as anyone else."

Thomason points to recent work by researchers Peter Field and Les Binet, which shows that the most effective practices in B2B advertising are the same as those used in targeting consumers.

Business owners are still humans, prone to the same motivations as anyone else, and this means the principle of connecting on an emotional level remains important in both forms of marketing.

This emotion shouldn't be understood as tear-jerking drama. The research showed that subtle allusions to aspiration, confidence or the fear of failure can all have a powerful effect in business-to-business marketing.

In practice, however, New Zealand marketers simply aren't doing enough of this, as evidenced at the recent Effies Awards where there were only one bronze winner in the entire B2B category.

"It's common sense. It's not like you stop being a human when you become a business person," says Thomason.