Orange Elections Man

by Nick Smith / 06 August, 2005

Not since fictional US banker Ira Goldstein charmed Kiwi hearts has an advertising creation entered the New Zealand consciousness as effectively as the Orange Elections Man. As ubiquitous in election year as immigrant bashing, Orange-man is everywhere - in your letterbox, on television, the Internet, your cellphone, billboards and the backs of buses. He's also a reason that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of electoral enrolment in the world. Now that the election date has been set, he talks to the Listener about democracy, castration and poor employment conditions for computer-animated figures.

How did it all begin? It's your everyday zero to hero story, basically - only I was actually zeros and ones.

How so? Binary code, pixels, you know. One moment I was a meaningless chunk of space on a designer's hard drive at advertising agency Y&R, the next I was the three dimensional animated face of the New Zealand democratic process. They needed a spokesperson for the 2002 General Election, so, rather than hire someone, they made me.

Was that a wink there? Well, more of an apostrophe, really. Apparently, emoticons - those punctuation-built things that people put at the end of emails and text messages :-) - were just taking off when they were making me, so, rather than give me a proper face, the Y&R crew grabbed some symbols off the keyboard and used those, instead.

You must lead quite the celebrity life? Well, that's where it all gets a bit sad, really. Although I get pretty well looked after in election years, the rest of the time they stuff me on a CD and archive me. You know the old ventriloquist routine where the dummy doesn't want to go into the suitcase? That's me, the day after the election.

So, no appearances on Dancing with the Stars? I'd love to, and I reckon I'd have shown Tim Shadbolt a thing or two about getting people to text in. But there's just too much to do in election years. Still, there is such a thing as too much publicity.

Such as? Well, there was a brief furore last election when a couple of members of the public kicked up a bit of a fuss about my somewhat rubbery appearance and went as far as suggesting that I was some kind of fetish enthusiast. Now, my skin may be rubbery, but it's not particularly thick, so comments like that do hurt.

So, what's with the orange colour? As an electoral spokesman, I need to be seen as neutral. By being orange, I steer clear of all the main political party colours, as well as any particular ethnic group. The colour wouldn't work in some countries - orange isn't very neutral in Ireland, for instance. But I guess it makes me something of an Everyman. Or it would, if I had any genitals.

More of an Every-eunuch, then, but what about the feet? Someone decided that there would be no clay feet for me and some would say that these disabilities are the perfect qualifications for a career in politics.

But you're above politics? Completely apolitical. All I care about are names on rolls. Like yours, for example. Have you checked your enrolment details? All you have to do is free text me your name and address to 3676.

Was that a shameless plug for your campaign just there? If by plug you mean the one that connects your computer to the Internet and allows you to visit me at www.elections.org.nz, well, yes, it possibly was.

You just don't stop working. They must pay you a bundle. Bit of a sore point. Thanks for bringing it up. Although my designer - who, by virtue of my creation, insists that I call him Dad - is paid tens of thousands, I get nothing. Not a brass razoo. I'm sure it's illegal. Didn't the government outlaw chimney sweeps and other child-labour abuse? And he speaks only one language.

You're multilingual? Oh yes, I speak seven languages - English, Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean. And I have a beautiful speaking voice - people say that I sound just like that nice Lionel off Shortland Street. Anyway, I should be paid more. I may be computer-animated, but I have feelings, too.

You must be feeling pretty happy about your campaign results, then? Yes, we managed to get 94 percent on the roll last time, and we're hoping to hit 95 percent this year. In Australia, only 88 percent of voters are enrolled, and in the US it's about half of all electors.

Does it feel strange being so famous and not actually existing? As far as I'm concerned, my pixels are just as real as those of Paul Holmes and possibly more real than Nicky Watson's. Does it feel strange interviewing a non-existent person? I don't know why my publicist agreed to this. Are my PR guys still here? Is that a tape recorder or a phone? This interview is over.

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