It's time for a new family to take up the challenge

It's time for a new family to take up the challenge

You could be forgiven for thinking Chris Jennings and his love for Newshub is just another ad. But both Chris and his journey on the Newshub Challenge are real.

Chris, from Pukekohe in Auckland's south, starred in our 2017 Newshub marketing campaign. Over the course of a week last year, we filmed Chris and his family as they watched, read and listened to Newshub.

Despite appearing on TV, radio, billboards and online for the last year spruiking our news service, Chris isn't an actor and his conversion to Newshub is genuine. Before that week, he had been a 1 News guy. He didn't really know why he watched 1 News - he said "it's just always been like that" - and he didn't feel the need to change.

This is what we had been looking for. A likeable bloke who was on the "default setting" when it came to news.

I won't pretend this is science. We found Chris and his family through our database of Family Feud entrants. Chris knew where the camera crew in his house came from, and we paid the family a small fee for their time.

But the challenge was real and the outcome open. We didn't tell Chris what to say, or how the material would be used. Creative director Ant Farac, the driving force behind the campaign, was extremely nervous.

"We'll get something we can use... right?"

He and the crew got to work, and as the week wore on, things got pretty deep.

It turns out that TV news bulletins are not just about the news. Ant and Chris had conversations about the ritual of watching, of how Chris could settle down and relax.

We've heard this from many people in our audience research: the 6pm news is a bookend for the working day, a scheduled change of pace that allows you to surface and find out what is going on in the world.

For Chris, the choice of station to watch was connected to his father.

"When Dad was watching the news, there had to be total silence in the room," he said. "He always watched 1 News."

When Chris took the challenge and switched to Newshub, he said he almost felt his father's disapproving presence in the room. The week wore on and Chris and his remarkably nice family endured the presence of our cameras every day, morning to night.

The result?

Ant sent me a triumphant one-line email, subject line "Newshub experiment", on the final Saturday: "He f***ing loves it."

Creative directors are notoriously foul-mouthed.

A couple of weeks ago we returned to Chris in Pukekohe to check up on him. We were braced for backsliding after a year of no cameras, but Chris and his wife Kelly were still watching Newshub. Apparently the whole family has become known as "the Newshub people". They get stopped in the street.

Now we are running the challenge again with a new family.

Chris and Kelly have passed on the baton to a new family based in Hawke's Bay. We are about to start the experiment again and Ant is on the edge of his seat once more, wondering if the "family" will come to the party.

Whatever happens, we're confident we'll learn something we didn't know about news, and about how people surprise you if you just scratch the surface.

Hal Crawford is the Chief News Officer, Mediaworks.