WellingtonApril 12, 2024

Ranking the best and worst of Wellington’s tourism ads


From ‘Absolutely Positively Wellington’ to ‘You would in Wellington’, the coolest little capital sure has seen plenty of slogans.

Wellington’s promotional agency, WellingtonNZ, has revealed its latest ad campaign to attract tourists to the capital city, centred around a new slogan: “You would in Wellington”. 

Over the past three decades, Wellington has made by far the most concerted effort of any New Zealand city to promote itself to the domestic tourism market, accumulating a laundry list of taglines in the process. Some ads were legendary and became part of the city’s cultural lexicon. Others were forgettable or just plain weird. Here they are from worst to best.

11. The World’s Coolest Little Capital 

In 2010, Lonely Planet, the travel guide company that pumps out unending lists of nice things about cities, referred to Wellington as “the coolest little capital in the world”. It was a throwaway line, but Wellington’s marketing boffins absolutely (positively) fell over themselves in excitement and started plastering the slogan everywhere they could, including this 2017 ad.

It all came crashing down in 2021 when expensive marketing consultant Brian Sweeney told WellingtonNZ the slogan was cringe; cool people and places don’t call themselves cool, and promoting the city as “little” made it seem unimportant. However, it is, undeniably, a capital. 

10. Today is a Good Day

“You can’t beat Wellington on a good day” is an inescapable saying that everyone in Wellington simultaneously loves and absolutely hates. In 2013, Wellington tourism finally embraced it with the “Today is a good day” campaign. The ads tugged at the heartstrings, but sometimes had strangely dark vibes. In my head canon, this depressed woman is distracting herself with a beer at Garage Project, this man is dying and his wife just wants to see him smile one last time, and this little girl is playing off her divorced parents against each other for treats and affection. 

9. You Would in Wellington 

Wellington’s newest ad campaign is angled on the many exotic things tourists would do in Wellington that they couldn’t do anywhere else, like drink a mocktail, go to an op shop, or do karaoke. It also highlights swimming in Oriental Bay and diving for crays, both strange choices for a winter campaign. 

The real problem is the slogan. When said out loud, it confusingly sounds like “you wouldn’t Wellington”. And it immediately opens itself up to parody: You’ve never seen three leaking pipes on one street, or spent $330m of ratepayer money on a useless town hall…. but you would in Wellington. 

8. The Wellington Effect 

“The Wellington Effect” campaign from 2019 introduced the idea that visiting Wellington makes you age in reverse, in a terrifying Benjamin Button kind of way. Wellington’s reputation as a southern fountain of youth never really caught on. 

7. Wellington Has Things

After years of building up its brand in the domestic market, 2014’s “Wellington has things” was an attempt to reach the big, scary Australian market. The city immediately got nervous and fell back on classic Kiwi self-deprecation, completely underselling itself in the process. 

The four-minute video was fronted by The Voice host Darren McMullan, who mispronounces Te Papa and celebrates Wellington for having things like “roads”, “water” and “electric doors on public toilets”. It has genuinely funny moment and ends with McMullan being won over by the city, but the incessant self-mockery undercuts the message. 

6. Spoil Yourself in Wellington 

“Spoil yourself in Wellington” was extremely 2008-core, with cutesy indie music and a scruffy-but-handsome boy wearing a hoodie underneath a blazer. The ad pitched Wellington as an upmarket shopping destination where you can buy a pink dress in the Old Bank Arcade, look at jewellery and art, and walk past a theatre. At the end of your trip, that same a scruffy-but-handsome boy will give you some jewellery before walking away without explanation. It’s glamorous depiction of the city, though it possibly missed the mark by pitching itself as a luxury destination during a recession.

5. Do Wellington Your Way 

Launched in 2018, “Do Wellington Your Way” felt like a step forward in the city’s brand, embracing its alternative appeal. It was positive, fun, and different. In the ad, a farmer becomes a drag queen, a real estate agent performs standup comedy, and a teacher joins some kind of a skateboard gang. The plot is a little confusing (are they touring performers, or just doing an open mic on a weekend trip?). It would work slightly better as a pitch for people to move to Wellington rather than visit for a weekend – but arguably that’s what WellingtonNZ should focus on anyway. 

4. There’s No Place Like Wellington 

This 2011 campaign was aimed at the Australian audience, so most New Zealanders might be unfamiliar, but it is delightful. The hills, oceans, and buildings of Wellington are depicted in a beautiful fabric diorama. There was no need to get clever with the slogan when targeting an audience that was largely unfamiliar with Wellington as a tourist destination. The voice-over is similarly straight to the point. It’s an unabashed sales pitch, but it’s direct, succinct, and hits all of Wellington’s best selling points in under a minute. 

3. Wild Wellington

For a moment, Wellington was all about “wild”. The region’s mountain biking and walking trails were promoted with the tagline “find your wild”. WellingtonNZ’s corporate mission statement was to “make the Wellington region wildly famous”. A series of short ads in 2021 promoted different ideas for “wild weekends” in Wellington. It was a nice change to focus on nature experiences, and it was a great point of differentiation against the stale grey husks that are Auckland and Christchurch. 

2. Have a Love Affair with Wellington 

A still image from the Wellington ‘Love Affair’ campaign.

The year was 2005, and Wellington was feeling frisky. “Have a love affair with Wellington” added a steamy side to the capital’s tourism pitch. The ad, which doesn’t seem to be available online, began with a man and a woman sitting at different tables in a cafe, making sexy eyes at one another. He helps her with a crossword, and they spend the day exploring the city together, before heading to a hotel to root. We see them guiltily removing their wedding rings, implying they are each cheating on their spouses. The plot twist is revealed in the final shot: the man has a photo of the woman in his wallet. They were married all along, and simply acting out an elaborate sexual fantasy with the entire city as their voyeur. 

It was bold, risqué and instantly memorable. It directly led to an increase in weekend hotel bookings, mostly from the lucrative kink market. 

1. Absolutely Positively Wellington 

The biggest, the boldest, and still undeniably the best. The 1992 Absolutely Positively Wellington ad spot had everything: cheerleaders, acrobats, air guitars, horses, a businessman rollerblading with a giant cell phone, jugglers, a marching band, a brothel (?) and a guy missing the bus. It’s beautiful, chaotic energy, fun, and unafraid to be corny or kitschy. 

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