Island Life by David Slack

Thinking like an ad man

If you were to take all the old 1-inch tape at TVNZ and spool it out, they say there’d be enough to get you to Australia and back. Maybe much further, in fact.

On that tape, you’ll find images of a younger New Zealand: possibly less groovy and dangerous, but appealing nonetheless, in its own innocent way. In fashion terms, the footage will take you all the way from mullet to mutton chop, shoulder pads to walk shorts. You’ll see Billy T James, probably, and perhaps Phil Warren. Yards of Muldoon and Lange, no doubt. Richard and Judy’s first news broadcast, would be in there somewhere, I daresay.

If you’ve been enjoying The Unauthorised History of New Zealand, you’ll be only too aware how much fun it can be to rummage amongst the archival footage and find everything from the Shah of Iran to Angela d’Audney’s breasts.

So how much value would you put on preserving this stuff? How much would you be willing to pay to keep those golden memories in a safe place, ready for hauling out whenever you wanted to look at them?

Well, according to a slightly concerned source I spoke to last night, that is a question we might want to answer quite soon. Apparently TVNZ has miles of footage on one inch tape that is about to fall victim to technological obsolescence. The tape’s in fine condition, but before long, there won’t be any compatible equipment left to play it. How long is “before long”? A year or so, possibly.

It would be, to put it mildly, unfortunate to miss the chance to transfer it to a new medium. My source guesses that it might cost you a million or so to do the job, when you tot up the cost of equipment and the person hours it would be likely to require.

So: how to fund it? Well, they’ve just freed up 800,000.

Alternatively, though, why not pitch this as an opportunity to a savvy advertising agency? They could get one of their clients to come charging in as the cavalry and put up the money to save the archival footage. In return, they could get first dibs on the material for their ad campaigns.

This, of course, is not thinking like an ad man. If I were thinking like an ad man I’d be saying “let’s offer to buy the stuff from TVNZ”. But that would be wrong in so many ways, I can scarcely believe I’ve put the idea into circulation.