Taking You Back To Matilda

2017 | New Zealand

The story of how we broke the boring, information based, entertainment industry advertising methodology, utilised a video property that had never before been commercialised, took a generation back to their childhoods and ended up with the highest selling NZ musical production for five years.

A campaign that also included a collaboration between two agencies, two media partners and an extra client thrown in to boot!

All for a nearly 30 year old, partly forgotten kids story, brought back to the forefront of the nation’s psyche through video media.

So, let us take you back, through our media campaign, into the world of Matilda, as you experience Matilda the Musical, the media campaign!




Miss Trunchbull was a gigantic holy terror who frightened the life out of pupils and teachers alike”[1]

[1] Matilda, Dahl, Roald. Puffin Books London 1988

Every great kids story has a goal, lovable hero / heroine, scary villain and display of teamwork that enables victory. Our campaign for Matilda the Musical was no different.

The Goal

Sell 80,000 full price tickets

Success is measured by bums on seats, not brand love. Just sell the tickets before the show leaves town.

The Villain

Musical theatre in NZ isn’t dramatically popular. It’s just not cool is it? The usual Auckland theatre show only sells about 30-40,000 seats. We needed to sell double that.

Tickets weren’t cheap.

Entertainment is cheap nowadays. Whether it’s music through Spotify, Netflix’s vast catalogue of TV and movies or free YouTube we have it pretty good.

Tickets started at $61 for the worst seat in the house rising to $125. No kids pricing or discounting.

Everyone’s after the family entertainment dollar.

2017 saw shows like Adele, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen & Drake along with family productions like Disney Princesses on Ice, Cirque Du Soleil and a Lion’s series, all demanding entertainment dollars.

Shows would only play in Auckland

The audience for musical theatre is a narrow band of middle-upper socio households spread across NZ.

We had to convince a significant audience segment to travel to Auckland, adding more expense to an already hefty ticket price.

Who the F*** is Tim Minchin?

In Australia, Matilda had achieved great success from the popularity of composer and lyricist Tim Minchin, his lack of NZ profile was actually a disadvantage.



If people feel nostalgic, “brand experiences make them feel good and drive sales purchase”[1]. When relaunching the iconic Gazelles, Adidas remade the 1980’s Kate Moss ad campaign whilst Stranger Things’ leverages its nostalgic setting, a time when its key demographic were in their formative years.

Nostalgia’s now named one of 30 key value elements for consumers[2].

For our target audience (F35-64), Roald Dahl’s Matilda (1988) elicits nostalgic childhood memories or memories of when their own children were small. Turning these nostalgic feelings into ticket sales was our challenge.

[1] Nostalgia Marketing and the Search for Authenticity, Forbes.com April 2016

[2] Almquist, Senior & Bloch, The Elements of Value, HBR 2016



“It was Matilda’s turn now to become a heroine if only she could come up with a brilliant plot to defeat Trunchbull”[1]

The entertainment industry’s marketing isn’t exactly ground-breaking. Simple executions - event, time, date etc. primarily on OOH and Radio. A sea of sameness.

So, when selling premium tickets, in a year stacked with premium entertainment choices, the standard approach won’t cut it. We saw that to effectively generate the nostalgia required to drive ticket sales with the audiences we would need to reintroduce the Matilda story back to them, remind them of their love of both Dahl and Matilda.


Leverage content opportunities in media to take our audience back to the world of Matilda

[1] Matilda, Dahl, Roald. Puffin Books London 1988



“All at once Matilda was able to see the whole situation with absolute clarity. Miss Honey needed help.”[1]

What’s your favourite childhood advert? Bet you that it’s a TVC. Favourite entertainment? Yep…For F35-64’s Our research[2] told us that TV is the media to “relax and unwind” and “be entertained by” both of which are mindsets conducive to generating nostalgia. TV would be our lead medium.

But for maximum effectiveness it had to work on multiple platforms. We worked with TVNZ to craft and refine the approach to market.

All quickly agreed the obvious audience synergies for F35-64’s within the TVNZ platforms with key opportunities to create nostalgia were TVNZ2 as a channel and Breakfast from an individual show level.

To  execute the full range of integration ideas we needed another network partner. Fairfax joined the team, bringing more digital news and print options for nostalgia inducing moments.


Go where no one else has

For the first time in history we turned the TV2 idents in to advertising content platforms. These 15 second non-commercial spots remind viewers what channel they’re watching, allowing us a perfect moment to take our audience into the Matilda story when they least expected it.

During the campaign, for the first time ever, these were transformed into key scenes from the show –delivering the nights programming courtesy of Matilda.


Storytelling when you least expect it

Finding non-traditional advertising zones to deliver the Matilda story back to audiences was key.

The story of Matilda pits two very different teachers against each other, the terrifying headmistress Miss Trunchbull juxtaposed against the kind and understanding Miss Honey. Drawing on this story content and the nostalgia of school memories the “Nominate your Teacher” campaign emerged, a competition, run across TVNZ and Stuff to find NZ’s best teacher, old or new.

Fairfax regional papers ran local versions of the competition, highlighting finalists and winners in editorial and social. Stuff published these online and TVNZ provided live coverage in multiple properties.

Breakfast was our regular TV content vehicle. Exclusive reports from behind the scenes, competition launches, cast interviews and presenter endorsements were run as TV content. Breakfast went backstage at the Perth and Auckland shows – reintroducing the story of Matilda via the cast and exclusive snippets of the show. Breakfast’s social accounts publicised the show, content pieces and the Nominate your Teacher promotion.


Advertising as content moments

Video story content ran on Stuff, taking over entertainment sections, whilst pre-roll video in news engaged the story with people during daily lives. Radio used in key mental downtime periods – drive, mid-morning / afternoon gave an aural version.

Selected TV shows that were either set within key periods of the audiences lifespan (e.g. Friends) took them back to childhood memories (Disney movies, Dirty Dancing) or utilised flashback style plotlines (This is Us) delivering snippets of Matilda when audiences were most receptive.

There was always content ready to transport you into the world of Matilda.


Need to travel? We can help with that…

To break another barrier, travel, we brokered a cross-client arrangement between Matilda and Air NZ. A bespoke Matilda package through Grabaseat, generated ticket sales for Matilda and sales for Air NZ.


Tell it again, Tim

Composer and lyricist, Tim Minchin, was brought over for a special performance to play a selection of songs and give the show’s backstory. Coverage ran across broadcast media and social accounts of influencers and celebrities in attendance.


[1] Matilda, Dahl, Roald. Puffin Books London 1988

[2] Proprietary Agency research tool, Bespoke survey fused with Roy Morgan Asteroid



“’You’ve done enough Matilda,’ Miss Honey said. ‘I still can’t believe you made all this happen for me.’”[1]

  • Seats found bums faster than Trunchbull’s cane.

We exceeded the original target selling in excess of 100,000 tickets (+25%). There were no discounted tickets and no mass giveaways. All show advertising was within our campaign as the show came and went in that period.

  • We beat the competition.

Matilda was the highest selling NZ theatre production for 2017 and the highest selling NZ musical in the last 5 years.

  • Delivered with true innovation

A real media first was delivered by transforming the TVNZ2 idents. In depth platform content solutions in Breakfast and Fairfax brought audiences back into the story of Matilda.


[1] Matilda, Dahl, Roald. Puffin Books London 1988

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