Whenever I’m on a plane, I generally watch the safety instructions even though I’ve seen them dozens of times.  It’s easy to get lazy and think, “I already know this,” and continue reading a magazine.  Knowing this, Air New Zealand and WETA, the special effects workshop behind The Lord of the Rings and the upcoming The Hobbit, teamed up in making a video that is both informative and an ingenious form of branding, complete with an awesome contest, and some surprise cameo appearances.  Never before has flight safety been so fun.

Air New Zealand’s ‘An Unexpected Briefing’

Here’s the video:

It’s amazing how the same old safety instructions are a watchable, thoroughly entertaining video now, one that has already hit 800k views since yesterday (and likely already over a million).  And there’s more reason to watch it: a contest called Unlock the Elvish Code, and you can be one of six to win a trip to New Zealand to watch the premiere of The Hobbit.

A video like this accomplishes several things.  It’s great publicity for Air New Zealand, The Hobbit, and New Zealand itself.  It also “wakes people up” when it comes to a routine, everyday, but very important, set of flight safety instructions.  This is how branded entertainment works: it’s content first, and an advertisement a distant second.  That’s a great tagline, by the way, “The Airline of Middle Earth.”

Also, you’ve got to love that director Peter Jackson and Gollum make appearances in this video.  They are a welcome surprise considering it seems like a mere “homage” at first, with people dressed up in their best Middle Earth gear and with seemingly no connection to the movie at all…until they show up.

This is a fantastic video that definitely achieves all of its goals.