Air New Zealand’s Christmas Ad Takes the Piss Out of Its Own Country’s Accent

We could definitely use a new beard, though

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Deck the halls! It’s yet another ad in which the fictional inner workings of Santa’s workshop are imagined in elaborate detail. This time around, Santa is a kind of corporate virtuoso, seated behind a desk, where he takes direct calls from kids and manages linguistic switching with finesse while a fawning elf takes notes on a tablet.

Chinese? No sweat.

Then the New Zealanders start dialing in. What kind of kid asks for a new beard, a biscuit ball or an ear plane?

Titled “A Very Merry Mistake,” hashtag #MirryChristmus and #AirNZXmas, the ad—created by Host/Havas for Air New Zealand—depicts nervous factory employees working overtime to produce improbable gifts, only for an irate Scotsman to barge into St. Nick’s hollowed enclave and throw a hissy fit. (Who better than the Scottish to weigh in on accent-driven misunderstandings?)

Thus tempered, Santa calls for his A-team—flight attendants from Air New Zealand, who explain the mind-bending rules of New Zealand accentry.

“New Zealand English has had 150 years to go native,” says Victoria University of Wellington linguistics professor Miriam Meyerhoff. “In that time, the short vowels have wandered, and that’s what makes it sound so distinctive—as the flight attendant in the video explains. It’s great to see Kiwis owning this distinctiveness and embracing it for comic effect.”

There’s something we didn’t know before. Reassuringly, though, it looks like that “puggy bank” will find a happy home after all.

Air New Zealand has an illustrious history of playing on quirks, giving its motherland an appeal that’s less about the terrain and more about laugh-with-us charisma. In 2009, its employees stripped down for an ad, but the brand grabbed global attention with its Lord of the Rings-inspired in-flight safety video from 2012. Last year, it pitched a new show idea to James Corden—Cockpit Karaoke. (We are still waiting for that to become a thing.)

“While it’s no secret the Kiwi accent has been misunderstood at times, it’s also a signature part of our service,” adds Air New Zealand chief marketing and customer officer Mike Tod. “In fact, for many Kiwis, being welcomed onboard an Air New Zealand flight by crew after being offshore for some time makes them feel instantly back at home.”

Client: Air New Zealand
Creative Agency: Host/Havas
CCO: Darren Spiller
ECD: Jon Austin
Senior Copywriter: Hadleigh Sinclair
Senior Art Director: Jack Delmonte
Group Account Director: Oli Cassidy
Senior Account Director: Jo Thomasson
Planning Director: Jess Page
Senior Broadcast Producer: Karen Muxworthy
Production Company: FINCH
Director: Alex Roberts
Executive Producer: Corey Esse
Producer: Amy Dymond
Director of Photography: Tim Tregoning
Production Designer: Bruce Everard
Editor: James Ashbolt,
Edit House: ARC Edit
Post-Production: FINCH VFX
Music: Song Zu
Photography by Matt Baker
Photography Production: Louis & Co
Media agency: Dentsu Aegis Network

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.