Activists embarrass politician into action with preemptive thank you 

Equal-pay group MindTheGap group pressures New Zealand's Prime Minister to support new law by publicly and preemptively thanking him

There is still a gender pay gap in New Zealand despite the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1972; according to government data from 2022, men earn on average 10% more than women in New Zealand.

MindTheGap is an alliance and advocacy group founded by Dellwyn Stuart (CEO of feminist organisation YWCA Aotearoa New Zealand), and Jo Cribb (former chief executive at the Ministry for Women) to address and close the gender pay gap in New Zealand.

On 8 March 2022 (International Women’s Day), MindTheGap launched a registry that shows whether a business has published its pay gaps. According to MindTheGap, pay gap reporting ‘has proven effective in retaining and attracting talent and is considered a trust indicator, providing the impetus to narrow and close pay gaps’.

On 24 March 2023, the alliance partnered with agency Colenso BBDO, Auckland, on a campaign to pressure the New Zealand Government to introduce mandatory gender pay gap reporting. Based on the insight that ‘there’s nothing more awkward than being thanked for something you haven’t done yet’, the Thanks Chris campaign publicly and preemptively thanked Prime Minister Chris Hipkins for supporting a mandatory pay gap reporting bill through parliament 

Over the course of a week, MindTheGap ‘thanked’ Hipkins with a 15-second online video ad, a plane banner (reading ‘Thanks Chris Hipkins from’), out-of-home executions, and even a choir, singing their thanks, stationed outside New Zealand Parliament. 

‘Thanks to the public pressure of the preemptive thank you, the New Zealand Government announced their plan to introduce mandatory pay gap reporting,’ said the agency in a press release. ‘A step towards equal pay. Thanks Chris Hipkins!’

Contagious Insight 

Low-budget banger / The impact of MindTheGap’s ambient, guerilla campaign shows us that budget constraints shouldn’t hamper creativity. With numerous lobbying and advocacy groups clambering for the government’s attention, this campaign took a different approach to cut through the noise. The strategy taps into commitment bias: the tendency to be consistent with what we have already done or said we will do in the past, particularly if this is public. And by targeting an individual, rather than the government as a whole, MindTheGap made it difficult for Prime Minister Hipkins to pass blame or make excuses for inaction.

Persuasive positivity / By restructuring a threat as a ‘thanks’, the campaign also benefited from having a more positive tone and enabled the team to have fun with the executions and make them engaging and shareable. With a topic like gender pay inequality, levity and humour are unexpected, but that element of surprise (hiring a choir and a plane banner, for example) earned the public’s – and the government’s – attention.

Another campaign that uses humour to earn our attention in a usually po-faced space is Haha You Just Ate Vegetables, by agency Party Land and plant-based food brand Wholly Veggie. The ‘emphasis on category education and awareness has meant very few brands are having fun in their marketing,’ explains Party Land managing director Andy Silva. ‘The category loves to lean into wellness and good-for-you messaging, which makes for a formulaic kind of creative execution. That gave us a huge white space to play in.’ Similarly, disruptive water brand Liquid Death claims to be one of the fastest-growing non-alcoholic beverage brands of all time because of its zig-when-others-zag approach to water marketing. ‘Why does health food always have to be so quiet and responsible?’ asks CEO Mike Cessario. ‘How come all of this shit that’s terrible for you is allowed to have all the fun and explosions?’ As with health and wellness, so with politics (and any other deathly dull space you can think of), don’t be bound by category conventions – if anything, let them inform an inspired zag towards different creative territory.

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