‘Sweet Spot’ focus alters from video

The winter marketing campaign, dubbing the Waitaki district "The Sweet Spot of New Zealand", was...
The winter marketing campaign, dubbing the Waitaki district "The Sweet Spot of New Zealand", was launched in May. Image: Supplied
Despite calls for it to be pulled from public view, Tourism Waitaki’s "Sweet Spot" campaign will continue.

However, the focus will now be on photographic content, rather than the planned 11-episode web series.

The campaign, dubbing the Waitaki district "The Sweet Spot of New Zealand", was launched in May. The five videos released so far, featuring different characters "finding individual sweet spots across the Waitaki district", have been widely criticised online.

One video, featuring a man watching a young woman from behind a boulder at Elephant Rocks, was taken down and re-released without the "villain" character after complaints it was poor taste.

While Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro acknowledged the campaign had "not resonated with some locals", she claimed feedback nationally and locally had "largely been positive".

She sent the Otago Daily Times a series of unattributed quotes in support of the campaign, such as "I think it’s really good", "this is movie-worthy" and "... it’s certainly doing its job at gaining lots of publicity, seems to me that lots of people need to get a sense of humour".

Tourism Waitaki received $17,000 for the campaign from the Government’s strategic tourism asset protection programme. Mrs Munro said the cost was under the $17,000 budget.

Across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, Tourism Waitaki said the videos had been viewed 77,578 times in eight weeks. Yesterday, the Otago Daily Times verified they had been viewed just over 38,100 times across the three social media platforms. The organisation clarified the 77,578 figure included views on its "offshore accounts" — WeChat, Weibo and TikTok accounts — directed towards the Chinese market.

Mrs Munro said no new episodes had been released over the past three weeks because a featured business had withdrawn from the campaign.

She said the campaign was now moving to its "second phase", which would use photographs and focus on the businesses aligned to the Sweet Spot.

Asked if this meant the end of the planned 11-episode video series, she said "we are currently reviewing the remaining video content".

Whitestone Cheese managing director Simon Berry said he was unaware of the "Sweet Spot" concept when his business was filmed for it.

After he saw the first episode, he requested a proof of the episode featuring Whitestone Cheese. When one was not provided, he withdrew the business from the campaign.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the concept had potential, but it was "hard to argue with people that it has missed the spot slightly".

He had not sat down with councillors, or the Tourism Waitaki board, to discuss it in detail, but had passed feedback on to Tourism Waitaki.

Asked if he had confidence in Tourism Waitaki, Mr Kircher said "it’s too difficult to answer that one just with a yes or no".

"The reality is, their funding is significantly slashed from what it had been," he said.

Mrs Munro said the Waitaki District Council had supported the ongoing operation of Tourism Waitaki in its long-term plan and there had been no indication from councillors and the executive team to the contrary.

The Oamaru Business Collective wrote to Tourism Waitaki board chairman Mike McElhinney requesting the entire campaign be withdrawn.

Chairwoman Cara Tipping Smith said it undermined local pride and detracted from the hard work done by previous campaigns to "positively promote our unique and magnificent region".

Mr McElhinney was approached for comment.

At a recent Waitaki Tourism Association (WTA) meeting, chairwoman Jan Kennedy said there was an "overwhelming feeling" that the campaign was "cheap, unprofessional and did not portray the image we wanted our region to represent".

The WTA is an independent organisation which unites tourism operators in the district.

rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz

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