Ad Nut
Nov 12, 2019

Meet Mr Humfreez, a deceptively high-tech ram

The wooden figure, created by ANZ and TBWA, reacts to temperature and humidity. But why does he exist?

TBWA and ANZ have gone to great lengths to create Mr Humfreez, a wooden and wool figure in the shape of a ram. Thanks to input from a professor at Canada's University of Waterloo, the little guy has some high-tech materials that allow him to perform two tricks:

  1. His nose turns blue (thanks to thermochromic ink) if the temperature drops below 18°C.
  2. His horns straighten out and point skyward (thanks to hygroscopic material) if the humidity exceeds 65%. 


Well, according to the companies, the 'smart device' is meant to "educate Kiwis about the humidity and dampness issues that impact their homes, their lives and their environment as part of ANZ’s Healthy Homes initiative".

Insufficiently heated and insulated homes are actually a serious issue in New Zealand. ANZ and TBWA, citing Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, point out that one in six Kiwis are affected by a respiratory disease—the highest rate in the developed world—and that a disproportionate number of those affected are under 14.

Mr Humfreez has been "meeting" pupils at an Auckland school with an eye toward developing an educational programme, so that kids can "go home and have a discussion with their parents about what they learnt and get the conversation started".

Hmmmm. Ad Nut, who at this moment is ensconced in a dry and cozy nook in an oak tree, believes that most creatures in the world generally know when they're living in conditions that are too cold and too damp. It's hard to believe that any animal (well, any mammal at least) needs a device of any kind, let alone a cute quadraped designed by a bank and its ad agency, to educate them about how it's nicer to be warm and dry than it is to be shivering in dankness. Most likely, people live in damp, cold homes not by choice, but because their homes have been shoddily built by profit-minded builders and they can't afford to improve them. In that light, an effort to educate kids so they can go home and enlighten their clueless if not heartless parents comes across as more than a little insulting. 

Therefore, Ad Nut was prepared to condemn Mr Humfreez as a waste of effort and resources that would be better spent on, you know, actually helping people improve their homes.

And Ad Nut remains right on the edge of delivering that condemnation. However, two things have so far stopped Ad Nut from entering into full rant mode.

First, ANZ and TBWA maintain that there really is an awareness problem here. "He may be cute, but Mr Humfreez provides a tangible way to show people their homes may not be as healthy as they think,” Astrud Burgess, ANZ's head of data and marketing, said in a release. Ad Nut is at least willing to allow that Ad Nut doesn't know everything (a fine characteristic, if Ad Nut may be so bold, that is in unfortunately short supply in this woe-begotten world). So perhaps people really don't know enough about the connection between cold, damp homes and long-term health issues.

Secondly, Mr Humfreez is not ANZ's sole attempt at solving the problem. In fact, Ad Nut discovered that the company has pledged to provide $100 million in interest-free loans for home improvements. That's nice! It makes this look a lot less like a callow attention-grab and a lot more like a serious, sustained effort to help out on a real issue. It's enough to make Ad Nut's heart feel slightly warmed.

Ad Nut thinks ANZ and TBWA did a bad job of explaining all this. They didn't even mention the $100 million pledge, which should probably be branded onto Mr Humfreez's wooly flanks. They're lucky that Ad Nut is the kind of creature who likes to dig, not only into the ground for buried nuggets of nuttiness, but also into the facts behind poorly executed press releases. 

The campaign includes TV, on-demand, digital display, online, PR, social, OOH and in-branch materials.


Client: ANZ
Agency: TBWA\Group NZ
Product Design: TBWA\MAKE
Content Production: TBWA\BOLT
Public Relations: TBWA\Eleven
Development Partner: Professor David Correa, University of Waterloo, Canada
Production Company: Flying Fish
Post Production: Mandy VFX
Sound Design & Mix: Liquid Studios
Music: Liquid Studios

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.


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