The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Communication Requires Listening Not Deafness …
August 6, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Comment, Creativity, Culture, New Zealand

I posted about the one thing that is doing NZ harm.

It’s reluctance to talk about suicide.

[The link is from 2017, just to highlight this is not a new thing]

The more it sits with me, the more it confuses me.

Let’s not forget – as I also wrote in that post – this is a government who have demonstrated the power of open discussion over issues such as COVID and terrorism.

And while this issue has been around for longer than the current government have been in power, I would have thought Jacinda – who is one of the most inspirational leaders of my life time – would be the first to recognise the current approach is actually working against them.

Anyway, whether popular or not, I decided I would bring up the issue with everyone I meet. To see what they think. To discuss how they can help. To encourage them to do things things that are directly for youth, rather than about them.

I am so happy the people I’ve spoken to already are open to helping in a range of ways.

This is important because there’s seems to be some strange views in terms of communication here that I feel is complicit to the problem rather than help defy it.

I say strange, but I get where it’s coming from.

For example …

“With a population of less than 5 million, you need to go mass with all communication to make anything stand a chance of getting a return on investment.”

It makes sense doesn’t it. Except it’s not true.

It’s a ‘throw as much stuff against a wall as you can’ strategy.

Maybe that explains why so much work doesn’t have a point of view, just wants to be noticed.

Though we are also seeing some adopt an alternative route – the same alternative route favoured by so many around the world … precision marketing.

The thing with this data-driven approach is that while it sounds amazing – the reality is, as we have seen around the world, there are some pretty inherent flaws in it. It will get better, but right now, it’s not quite precise enough and/or not personal enough and/or not emotive enough.

The irony is in a nation of less than 5 million, we should not only be able to reach everyone, but we should be able to do it in a way that is much more intimate and individual. And while I’ve only been here a short time, I’m not seeing much that does that … instead it’s far more super generalist messaging to super generalist audiences with – in many cases – super generalist benefits or offers.

ie: Price.

Add in the communication attitude that often feels like that goal is to ‘only target people with the cash right this second’ – rather than any play towards the future of your business – and it’s no surprise youth can feel isolated, ignored or limited in their choices.

Now I appreciate I sound like a prick.

A condescending, patronising, judgemental prick.

One of those British assholes who comes to a new country and says, “let me tell you everything about your country”.

The irony is this is the last thing I want to do.

I totally appreciate I am new here.

I completely respect I have so much to learn here.

And I absolutely acknowledge the country is doing pretty fucking well in so many other areas – areas the rest of the world are terrible at.

But I also have the benefit of experience and looking at things with fresh eyes and – as I said in my previous post – this is the first country I’ve lived in, since China, where I see a generation who feel they don’t see the ability to express who they are but have to live up to who others want them to be.

Not all, but a lot.

And regardless of the size, the implications of this on individuals – and the nation – are huge.

But as much as people leaving the country or simply accepting the status quo has huge economic impact on the direction on this wonderful country is heading, the loss of life is far, far worse. And it’s happening in – proportionately – huge numbers.

I know no one wants this to happen.

I know many of the public feel helpless in what to do.

But one thing we can all do – even before we lobby for the government to change their stance on talking about suicide in the media – is to recognise them and value their individual tastes, beliefs, habits, ideas and ambitions.

To rob them of that is to rob them of something fundamental.

It’s really important for me to leave this by saying how much I love this country.

It has already been incredibly kind, generous and compassionate to me and my family.

The actual intent of this post is not to point fingers, but to try and repay my faith in the country that has been so kind to me by trying to do something that gives back. Whether that is as an individual or as family or something more.

And while I may cop flack or be told I don’t know what I’m talking about – which may all be true – one thing I do know is not talking about the issue is not helping the issue.

19 Comments so far
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If anyone reads your post as anything other than wanting to help change a terrible statistic, they need to take a look at themselves.

Comment by George

I hope so. I certainly don’t want to look like I am blaming anyone … nor suggest I have all the answers … I just know not talking about the issue is not helping the issue.

Comment by Rob

Re your confusion. Could it be because external threats like Covid and terrorism are arguably easier to attack whereas internal culture is harder to challenge because the enemy is within and some of your populace are more lilely to push back (or stay silent)? It’s not an excuse for inaction, but it might highlight a route in.

Comment by John

I think you could be right.

I think it could be that the moment we acknowledge the issue, we have to acknowledge we have played a role in it, even if that is just maintaining the silence that surrounds it.

Comment by Rob

What you describe is happening in NZ comms is not unique to NZ. Great post.

Comment by DH

True … but the relatively small population of NZ makes it more confronting given it could be [arguably] dealt with more easily.

Comment by Rob

The title of this post is perfect.

Comment by Jemma King

precision marketing is about as precise as a pisshead pissing in the toilet.

Comment by andy@cynic

Or a little kid going to the loo. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Not just little children.

Comment by Mary Bryant

good post campbell. youll get your haters for it but all you have to do is ask them what the fuck theyve been doing to change shit. seems nz is not as perfect as it seems from the outside especially if any kiwi prick criticises you for trying to do shit to make things better.

Comment by andy@cynic

We’ll see. I did cop some shit last time, but generally people have been very kind, supportive and generous with their comments and desire to also help positively change the situation.

Comment by Rob

An excellent post with a point that demands major consideration. If people choose to challenge what you say and why you are saying it, then it reveals more about them than you. Keep going Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

Another thoughtful post Rob. Glad to see you are further engaging in a complex challenge. As I’m not a marketer, I’d also be interested to understand more about your comments on messaging as well. Maybe you’ll do that in another post or can direct me to another article?

Kia kaha


Kia kaha.

Comment by Chris Jackson


Good on you for highlighting the issue, but stop pretending you’re some kind of contrarian hero for pointing it out. If you moved to South Africa, would you tell them they’ve got a problem with racism?

I understand you’ve attracted some criticism for your stance. And that you’ve interpreted that criticism as a sign of our inability to talk about big problems. Perhaps you are wrong. Perhaps it is your approach, and expectation to be rewarded for minimal effort.

There are people who have been working with this problems for decades. People who have studied it, volunteered and fundraised for it, suffered and recovered from it. Maybe it’s worth listening to them before you start. Maybe it’s worth doing a bit of research. Because first and foremost, you sound like ignorant prick.

You’ve shown no real curiosity about an incredibly complex issue. And it is an issue that desperately needs curiosity, empathy and bold new thinking.

Here’s some things you might consider before speaking up. You might have considered how much colonisation affected Maori collective health and the ongoing trauma still felt. You might study our strange and shameful history of institutionalising our mentally ill. You could talk to the staff at Youth Line, who are constantly struggling with underfunding. You’ve got a big platform, why don’t you have a chat to Shae Ronald? You might have highlighted Mike King’s Gumboot Friday, and his struggles with a nonresponsive government. If you prefer the storytelling route, you might have considered the undervalued Maori belief in Hauora, and how this might provide a path back to a broader definition of health. If you want a good book to read, try ‘This is not how it ends’ by Jehan Casinader – who shares how story-telling helped him through depression. It’s a good read. If you wanted to stick with the advertising perspective, you might try reading the IPA Grand Prix winning case study from FCB in 2014, that showed how the NZ government successfully made inroads into youth depression with digital tools and limited resources. It’s a great case study. Shit, if you really want to get deep and turn the lens back on yourself, you could consider how late stage capitalism and neoliberal economics have promoted martialism without meaning, and countless other indignities and absurdities. You might consider how much profit our banks and supermarkets make comparative to other OECD countries. You might consider tax avoidance. These factors, and many more, are part of the problem.

Planning is supposed to represent the intellectual arm of the advertising industry, and if this is the depth of thought you apply to problems, we should all be a bit embarrassed. Try a bit harder.

Comment by Kia Kaha

Hello Kia. Thanks for writing.

I’m under no illusion it’s a highly complex situation and I also acknowledged I am new to the country – which is why I have spoken to people at Youth Line, I have met Mike King, I have talked to people who have lost loved ones to suicide. And they all talked about many of the issues I highlighted, so it’s not just a case of me coming in and spouting my own views.

Is that enough? Of course not. I’ve only been here a few months but the work I’m doing and the people I’m seeing and talking to has highlighted a huge issue that isn’t being talked about enough. Including – as I wrote in the post – the role marketing has in all this. (And the colonialist element is a huge factor, as you indicate and I touched on in my earlier post – but nowhere near enough as it runs so deep)

Just to be clear, I did cop some flack for writing about this. Specifically the first post – which I’m not sure you read. But I also got a lot of people agreeing with it. There will always be different perspectives but what I found interesting is the flack was more focused on me saying not enough is seemingly being talked about this subject rather than the fact 654 people died by suicide last year.

While I understand you have a different view, I think your reference of my post being the equivalent of telling South Africa they have a racism problem is wrong. Because they know it and openly discuss it. Here they don’t. Not in any meaningful national level.

You seem upset with me. That’s fair. However I’m confused whether it’s because I’m talking about this issue or because you think there’s already a lot being talked about this issue (though papers from 2014 isn’t really reinforcing that point) because we both seem to be in agreement a lot of people (in a lot of different situations, circumstances and groups) are incredibly affected by this terrible situation and more help is needed.

If you want to meet and talk about this, let me know. I’d welcome the chat.

Comment by Rob

A lot of stones being thrown by someone who seems very angry Rob has suggested not enough is being done by government and commerce about the individual needs, hopes and ambitions of youth. Meanwhile New Zealand continues to have the worst suicide rate in the World.

Comment by Pete

seems youre proving campbells point. don’t get me wrong, i like watching him get a kicking like the next fucker but all youre doing is being personal about how hes raising the issue and throwing back books and names. he never said he has the answer he said the issue isnt talked about enough. and for fucks sake, you quote a paper from fcb from 2014. you say that was about the gov making inroads with youth. based on the numbers campbell quoted, it isnt fucking working now is it.

Comment by andy@cynic

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