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How a Comedian and a Weird Puking Bird Prove the Power of Influencer Marketing



If you thought the world of influencer marketing was limited to lip gloss and designer labels, think again. In a titillating tale of talent meets tail feathers, New Zealand's bird of the century has been named as none other than the pūteketeke — thanks almost single-handedly to comedian John Oliver. The British funny man put his full weight behind his endorsement, bigging up the bird on TV and billboards in NZ and beyond. Why? Probably just to prove he could. How? Simply by using his star power and making us chuckle.


So, grab your binoculars while we take you on a journey through the wacky world of influencer marketing, where even our feathered friends aren't safe from the talons of celebrity tastemakers.


The Rise of Pūteketeke


The pūteketeke, also known as the New Zealand falcon, is a majestic bird that has been flying under the radar for quite some time. All that changed when the comedic maestro John Oliver decided to bestow his Midas touch upon this unsuspecting water bird on his wildly popular US talk show, Last Week Tonight. Making a compelling case for the pūteketeke’s avian supremacy by describing them “weird puking birds with colorful mullets,” Oliver managed to turn a little-known fauna into the hottest chick of the century, kicking all other contenders out of the nest in the process. As a result, the pūteketeke secured more than 290,000 votes — more than 22 times the second-place finisher, New Zealand’s iconic kiwi bird — in the Bird of the Century contest run by New Zealand’s Royal Forest & Bird Society.


Influencer Marketing Takes Flight


So, what does this have to do with influencer marketing? Everything. John Oliver, with his massive fan following and the ability to turn even the most mundane topics into viral sensations, became the ultimate hype man for the pūteketeke. It's a classic case of a celebrity endorsement, but instead of promoting hair loss shampoo or energy drinks for cash, Oliver was giving big ups to the pūteketeke, just for the crack. The Pūteketeke phenomenon is testament to the fact that influencer marketing isn't limited to things you can buy. Public opinion, even on seemingly inconsequential of subjects, is also up for grabs.


In the age of instant virality and short attention spans, Oliver’s silly campaign spread like bird flu. This random creature’s ascent to the high life is a shining example of the unpredictable nature of influencer marketing. Star power is no longer confined to traditional endorsements; it's about tapping into the zeitgeist, capturing the public's imagination and making them care about the unexpected, whether it's a comedian's crusade in a bird popularity contest or a quirky hashtag that takes social media by storm.


Causing a Flap


While some in the twitcher community have condemned Oliver’s actions and accused him or turning the competition into a farce — which, admittedly, he has — the comedian has countered the best way he knows how, with comedy. “This is what democracy is all about – America interfering in foreign elections,” he quipped. And while he has undoubtedly screwed the results of the competition, in the process he put a little-known conversation organisation on the world’s cultural radar. Maybe next century another bird will get 290,000 genuine votes… although admittedly that’s a bit of a long game.


The Takeaway: Learn, Laugh and Take Flight


For our purposes as content marketers, the pūteketeke's journey from obscurity to stardom is a lesson in the power of influencer marketing to shape perceptions, create trends and, yes, even crown a weird puking bird as a cultural icon. So, the next time you're planning your content strategy, remember this feathery fable and consider the untapped potential of influencers, be they human, virtual or avian.


As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of content creation, let's take a cue from John Oliver and the pūteketeke: embrace the unexpected, infuse humor into your campaigns and who knows, you might just find yourself at the forefront of the next viral sensation. In the words of he who must not now be named… believe you can fly!






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