How Every Kiwi Vote Counts and Special NZ boosted overseas votes by 24% by inviting Australians to decide NZ’s general election

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Imagine asking the greatest rival your country’s ever known to take control of your nation’s future. That’s what New Zealand did when they asked Australia to cast the deciding votes in the New Zealand general election. In September of 2023, nonpartisan organisation Every Kiwi Vote Counts encouraged overseas voter participation by focusing on boosting voter turn-out in Australia in a campaign developed by Special New Zealand.


The campaign featured Darryl – an uber-Australian character who claimed that “this New Zealand election, Australia decides.” And for good reason – of the six million New Zealanders in the world, almost 700,000 of them reside in Australia. That’s a huge percentage of voters, with the potential and power to sway the result.

You would think one country deciding the general election of another country would be contentious, but Darryl thinks it’s “ridgey-didge”, given that “Australia pretty much raised New Zealand.” He doubled down, saying, “We showed them how to make pavlova, gave them their best music with the likes of Crowded House, one of their best athletes in Phar Lap, and their best actors – like that gladiator bloke.”

Every Kiwi Vote Counts initiator and director Tracey Lee spent 15 years of her life voting overseas, back when she had to head to a consulate in New York, vote via fax in Shanghai, or jump online in Amsterdam to participate in the General Election.

Says Lee: “Democracy only works if we can all be part of it. This campaign wasn’t about orchestrating turn-out in favour of one party or another. It simply championed the rights of all New Zealanders to vote – ensuring that we have robust and healthy participation in our government elections.

“In 2020, there were a total of 2.8 million votes in our General Election – and only one in ten international voters took part. With roughly one million New Zealanders living overseas, there’s a large proportion of New Zealanders who aren’t exercising their democratic right to vote.”

This was an election campaign like no other, in that it was focused on foreign soil – garnering the earned media needed to make sure Every Kiwi Vote Counts’ message was heard. Using a variety of social media, video, out-of-home and PR, Kiwis living in Australia were encouraged, challenged, and even goaded into having their say.

How Every Kiwi Vote Counts and Special NZ boosted overseas votes by 24% by inviting Australians to decide NZ’s general election

Says David Shirley, creative director at Special: “If you’ve met me, you know that politics and democracy are topics close to my heart. Meaning, you’ve probably had an earful from me at some point – apologies. But equality and the right to vote are also incredibly important to Special, so we were keen to make sure that every voice was heard, regardless of geography.”

Says Lee: “Overseas voters were especially significant this time, as it was a much tighter election than we saw in 2020. Both major political parties had new leaders and the minor parties were set-up to hold an unprecedented influence post-election, meaning every Kiwi vote really did count.”

With that in mind, Darryl adds: “It makes sense that New Zealand is letting Australia decide. If you’re an Australi-Kiwi, get out there and vote. It’s easy, because you can do it all on the internet – we probably gave them that too.”

And vote they did. 2023 saw a 24% increase in overseas voters – the highest turnout on record. Four electoral seats changed hands after election night, due to special votes – the largest shift since 1999. And what was a two-party government turned into a three-party one.

A win for democracy. And all it took was us surrendering to a foreign nation.

Client: Every Kiwi Vote Counts
Founder/ Strategic Lead – Tracey Lee

Agency: Special
CEO/ Creative chairman – Tony Bradbourne
Chief Creative Officer – Lisa Fedyszyn
Chief Creative Officer – Jonathan McMahon
Creative Director – David Shirley
Creative Director – Steve Hansen
Executive Design Director – Heath Lowe
Designer – Anushka Harrison
Chief Strategy Officer – Rory Gallery
Senior Strategist – Amy Willemse
Senior Business Manager – Courtney Spillane
Head of Business Management – Callum Walker
Head of Production – Katie Mortensen
Senior Producer – Liz Garneau
Studio Manager – Gavin Le Claire
Senior Production Designer – Chad Kukahiko
GM, Special PR – Kelly Grindle
Senior PR Director – Eleanor Ashdown
Director – Arvid Eriksson
Sound Engineer – David Liversidge