Air New Zealand has capitalized on the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit with its airplane safety video released in 2014 after a little over a decade of (well-meaning) jokes about how the two series are really long cinematic tourist advertisements for New Zealand.
Full of dwarves and elves as the safety guides, two Middle-Earth-fan adventurers get on the plane and first they’re sitting beside Elijah Wood (Frodo) and then they are guided through the safety aspects of their “journey”, where all of the standard airplane warnings are issued (life jackets, oxygen masks, no smoking, fire exits…) but riddled with Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit references.
I didn’t even hear them calling New Zealand New Zealand in this video, despite it being the airplane safety video for Air New Zealand; it’s now Middle Earth through and through.
And sure, why not; as you can see above, Hobbiton is a tourist destination. I even have a friend who recently went to Hobbiton on her vacation to New Zealand and it is a bucket list travel location for myself.
I’m not unsurprised that Air New Zealand decided to capitalize on one of it’s nations treasures. Maybe it is a stretch for me to call the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit a national treasure but it did put New Zealand on the map and it did let the world know that New Zealand is a glorious and most wonderful place to visit. Considering the massive popularity of the movies, I would have been unsurprised if New Zealand companies had never gotten around to taking advantage of this super unique niche
Part of what makes this ad (ahem, airplane safety video) so fascinating to me is that I don’t think that it would have worked so well with many other series. Most other movies don’t have the same international appeal of Lord of the Rings nor are many other movies linked to a country in the same identifying way. Choosing LOTR and The Hobbit for a special safety video meant that many people would understand the references being made and thus think that this take on airplane safety was amusing and engaging. It’s a nice dose of national pride, pop culture, and engagement.
Not to mention that I am sure it was a mutually beneficial circumstance for both parties. This video became popular on YouTube with over 15 million views and is, as such, good publicity for Air New Zealand. I am sure that the makers of The Hobbit (notice The Hobbit hat), whom also made The Lord of the Rings, had property rights to the references from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and also capitalized off of the advertising opportunity. After all, on an airplane, the passengers are a captive audience to this little safety film playing out, laden with blatant references to the movies. It’s rare nowadays to have an audience who just has to see your movie advertisement (or any other advertisement for that matter) with everyone having PVR-capable cable boxes, Netflix, YouTube and Surius XM radio.
Finally, a lot of the time I just see peoples eye’s glaze over when the airplane safety speeches begin. Maybe this will be a nice inspirational way to make these speeches overall more interesting.