National tries out ASMR, David Seahorse makes an appearance, the Greens love memes and Labour is… absolutely silent.
TikTok can be the ultimate death scroll – endless videos that are equally entertaining and mind-numbing, and then gone. Those 30 seconds of attention or dissociation could be important for the people competing in our country’s biggest popularity contest, ending October 14. In New Zealand there are over a million people using TikTok, two thirds of them aged between 18 and 34 – in other words, heaps of young voters. Some candidates’ accounts are pumping out the short video format, enlisting found footage, slick framing, animal filters, recycled memes and hot dance moves, others are digital graveyards, accounts optimistically made and then abandoned when it was discovered that making snappy content is hard actually, and some are notably missing.
Vibe: National has a weakness for a split screen, which at first made me question if the platform itself plays two videos at once. But no, it’s their decision to have Luxon share the spotlight with ASMR videos of kinetic sand being sliced, mixed and ground, or cake that looks like objects being cut. “They think they’re entitled to your money. They think they’re entitled to waste it,” says Luxon as a knife cuts into a cake shaped like a hairbrush, hair and all. What are they trying to do here? Is the calming effect of ASMR meant to be associated with National, to imbue a sense of safety in voting for conservatives? Are they trying to utilise the videos as banal distractions from their uncharismatic leader? Are ASMR videos royalty free or will we have another Eminem situation?
Reckon: More confusing than calming.
Vibe: The vibe here is mostly professional-looking videos of Luxon in an office, with a flag and a painting hanging from the wall, visible though gently blurred. Luxon, in his suit and silver fern pin, looks, well, prime ministerial. The video above, taken on the street as the final screw gets drilled into a fresh hoarding, would benefit from muting, because someone off-screen seems to be yelling “he’s a racist”.
Reckon: A bit awkward and very polished.
Erica Stanford (National)
Vibe: Stanford’s bio on TikTok is “Living in the Margin of Erica”, and I have no idea what the National MP means by this. Is she living in a winning margin, or has she been relegated to the margins? She’s posted 10 videos since September 2021, and three of them hit up Kris Faafoi, then minister of immigration, for always saying “soon”. There’s a dash of family, and then a repost of NewstalkZB calling Labour “stupid or stubborn”.
Reckon: If it wasn’t politics I’d wonder if some of this was cyberbullying.
Chris Bishop (National)
Vibe: Embarrassingly, on a video of himself using a drill, Bishop has professed his love for hammers. Less embarrassingly, he was candidly caught listening to Taylor Swift and wearing muddy post-practice sneakers to a media interview, AKA being a regular Kiwi guy. Bishop is a savvy user of hashtags, coining his own, #bishrants (2 videos) and #bishmullet (1 video).
Reckon: Apart from the hammer/drill faux pas, Bish is an all good and even sometimes funny TikToker with a very small audience.
Vibe: Labour is notably absent. Searching for them brings up the Irish Labour Party, which has levelled up from bread and butter to bread and roses, according to the emojis in its bio. You’d think that if you were majorly falling in the polls and facing the possibility of “the most radical right-wing government, National-Act, that New Zealand’s seen since Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson” (Hipkins’ words) you’d be campaigning on all platforms, but nah. Maybe they think a pink beanie will win the election?
Reckon: Gotta be in to win.
Chris Hipkins (Labour)
Vibe: Wind blows through an abandoned industrial factory, crispy oak leaves have made their way inside and litter the concrete floor. There is no one here and it’s cold.
Tamati Coffey (Labour)
Vibe: Coffey started strong in 2021 with a dance trio in parliament which lasted about 10 seconds before the phone toppled over. “Members of Parliament trying to be cool and trying to TikTok,” he said in the caption. This year though, he’s only posted twice, and both were on the same day (Waitangi Day). Sure, the videos include adorable children attempting to dance in synchronicity, and his megawatt smile, but it’s been over seven months of silence since.
Reckon: Strong start and then not a whole lot else.
Vibe: The Green Party are avid posters and meme users. Admittedly, the TikTok account does not get as much love as the Instagram, from the admins or followers. But still, they’re layering meme gifs over headlines, which in my opinion is an elegant way of having an opinion without being a lecturer. Also on TikTok, Chlöe Swarbrick has an account with a profile image of her holding a baby, but she hasn’t posted any videos, which is to say, she be lurking. The only account she follows is Wellington City Council. Ominous from the Auckland Central MP.
Reckon: You’re better off joining the masses following them on Instagram. By masses I mean 66K, just a little more than National’s TikTok followers.
Vibe: The Act account is very selective. It follows seven accounts, one of which is Taylor Swift. Perusing its offerings, one can’t help but wonder if David Seymour is trying to turn himself into a meme. In 2021 he used a seahorse filter on TikTok and introduced himself as David Seahorse, getting almost a thousand likes. Recently though, Seymour is just being Seymour. He’s swivelling around in his office cubicle, out on the golf green, and in the leather backseat of a car, saying hi a lot. The Act account is pretty much entirely his face, perhaps because the username david_seymour has been taken by someone who will only give it up over their dead body.
Reckon: Sorry Seymour, and bring back the filter.
Shane Jones (NZ First)
Vibe: Even if you’re not on Shane Jones’ exclusive list of TikTok followers, chances are you’ve heard his auto-tuned cover of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. Though it’s been called “unhinged” and “insane”, I find it almost excruciatingly earnest, with lines such as “I took a billion trees and planted everywhere” and “Croatian Māori from Awanui”. He posted an explanation/non-apology for it, saying, “They were gonna make me famous with a great video showing earnestness and commitment to great policy.” This Tuesday he was back at it, singing “Shane Jones vote for us” to the tune of ‘Another One Bites the Dust’. He’s got snazzy outfit changes and someone with a box over their head, and he pulls it off.
Reckon: Jones deserves more followers (on TikTok).
Tanya Unkovich (NZ First)
Vibe: In one video, Tanya Unkovich, the NZ First representative in Epsom and on TikTok, admits she gets scared when she is walking around Newmarket, in part because of truancy. She takes her engagement ring off and hides it. The self-described “young woman with big hair” has a leopard print couch in her home office, and keeps referring to the campaign as a “journey”. In the masterpiece above, Unkovich faces away from the camera, has Thomas (her almost blind cat) slung over her shoulder and is bobbing and humming along to ‘Help is on its Way’ by Little River Band (an Australian band).
Reckon: TMI on the personal tragedies.
Vibe: Te Pāti Māori were active for a hot second between June 2021 and February 2022. In that time Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi danced to Bartender by Yukia, answered questions like “who’s most likely to get kicked out of the house?” and “who’s most likely to respond to a racist email?”, shared Waititi’s speech to support the banning of conversion therapy, featuring the killer line “takatāpui are whānau, end of story”, and made a compelling argument for Air Jordans as formal attire (an argument also reported by Charlotte Muru-Lanning on The Spinoff).
Reckon: Fun but faded.
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer (Te Pāti Māori)
Vibe: Going by @whaeadeb, Ngarewa-Packer seems to have taken the fun from her party’s account onto her own, posting poi jams, family-friendly fun, media coverage, and reacts to media coverage. Just days ago she quoted Hunt for the Wilderpeople, “I’m relentless like the Terminator”, while using a beautiful false lashes filter. Ngawera-Packer was an early adopter, with her first video, a dance to Benee, posted in 2019. She is still going strong.
Reckon: A+ fun content.
Raf Manji (The Opportunities Party)
Vibe: With a modest follower count, TOP leader Raf Manji abandoned posting in July. His videos, with their weather updates taken on selfie mode, are like a very boring video diary. The most exciting is a still image of Manji by a Hobbiton sign. He has made a ring shape with one hand, and is penetrating said ring with the index finger of his other. He looks very very happy, either proud of the hand double entendre, or completely oblivious, I can’t tell.
Reckon: In dire need of assistance.