Key and Letterman-great late showing

“…[New Zealand] my favourite country in the world to which I have not  been”.        David Letterman 

On Thursday night’s Late Show with David Letterman  the alphabetical host needed  large prompt cards, the autocue and a very audible assistant.  He still had more miscues than a chalkless (and occasionally clueless) billiards cue. He semed to have something else on his mind.*

 His guest, New Zealand Prime Minister  John Key, a numberman in a former life, just needed the autocue for enumerating  The Reasons You Should Visit New Zealand , counting down from 10. The numerical snooker shots (all black), were carefully set up near each pocket and Key potted them in an affably tradesman-like  fashion, without once missing his cue.

OK, the  lines fed to him by Letterman’s gag writers were not great, but this wasn’t a platform for genuinely genius Kiwi humour of the Conchords kind. Key came across well and delivered in what is a high pressure goldfish bowl.

The Late Show set is trapped in a seventies time warp. Had it been even a nineties Clive James Live show there would have been photos and video clips of the Wonderland Letterman referred to. The focus on the PM and not NZ visuals could have gone either way. Initially a little nervous, his genuine smile and his refusal to take himself too seriously complemented the world weary and wooden  Letterman.

Whether or not viewers remember the PM’s name, the words “New Zealand” and the fluffy fuzzies will spark new neuronal activity in 4 million plus US viewers and flow through to new tourist, convention and business action for New Zealand downstream. This is timely new energy for Key’s Tourism portfolio.

The  “20 hours travel time”  was, of course,  flogged to death.  The USA is as far away from New Zealand as we are from them, but attraction and motivation can overcome the time challenge.  

I recently hosted two NASA visitors who had been persuaded by NASA colleague and futurist Dr Jack Bacon* to detour through Christchurch en route from Houston to Tokyo to attend a high level systems strategies meeting.  Jack had been on our speakers’ circuit a year ago (and a fortnight ago completed another speaking tour here with Kathy) and convinced his colleagues to visit).  All three would endorse No 1 on Key’s top 10 list: “Unlike most of the world, we still like Americans.”

The mix of old and new media messages and this sort of word of mouth endorsement lifts the game up into new levels of business tourism. The 4 minute YouTube clip* gives the promo legs and creates potential links to The Great Kiwi Invite and other  on-line tourist promotion assets.*

Getting on  The Late Show may be an undignified Prime Ministerial pursuit in the eyes of the sniffy, but the 4 minute slot was a great free commercial. It suited Key’s persona and style.  The premeditated sponteneity worked and Key delivered, even if some of the references to Cinnabon and Lohan may have drawn the same bemused and bewildered response among Kiwi viewers, not the Prime Minister’s  prime audience, as tongue in cheek No 5  among Americans: “Get the whanau together, stay in a bach, crack open the chilly bin and slap on your jandals.”   (Cynical exponents of the cheap crack would no doubt say that that’s the only word many would recognise.)

Number 4 was: Visit in the next 30 days, I’ll pick you up at the airport.”  Swapping Cabinet for a cab?  Taxis would be a refreshing change from taxes, but the lead time for most new travellers will be a little longer, so don’t turn the meter on just yet.

Footnote: There’s also a coincidental  bonus (though that word is out of favour in NY while President  Obama is in town).  As well as achieving his main aim purpose of getting on the Late Show early, the PM finds that he can also fit in a flying visit to the UN and do a stand up turn.  He faces a smaller and more challenging audience, especially if Helen Clark slips in, and he’ll get a little less stage time than the 90 minutes the Libyan leader  highjacked the other day, but it’s still worthwhile doing while he’s in town.

Two big bites of the Big Apple and lots of other good video ops like meeting President Obama and being belle of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange!  If he can make it there, He’d make it anywhere, It’s up to you, New York, New York.

To save more travel costs he could even stay with the whanau at the temporary Libyan tent village which has been erected near by, complete with nubile security and,  unlike some hotels, running water. 

However,  if he uses this pipe opener at his UN gig  “Have  you heard the one about how we scotched the rumours about why Kiwi bagpipers were invited to play at Colonel Gaddafi’s  4oth anniversary?”  he  might get a chilly reception. 

 At least no one could accuse him of Brown nosing.


John Key on David Letterman Top 10 List 2009 Sept

The Great Kiwi Invite  

Lyall Lukey 26/9/09


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