A World-First Digital Campaign Creates a Virtual Coastguard

Posted in LIFELINE August 2016 - English

One thing that social media and maritime SAR have in common is the constant need to develop through innovation and technology. Maritime New Zealand have put this connection to good use and have partnered with Google and Facebook in a ground breaking digital campaign. Vince Cholewa, Senior Media and Communications Advisor for Maritime New Zealand, explains further:

In a world-first digital campaign, New Zealand’s government maritime agency, Maritime New Zealand, has partnered with Google and Facebook to create "Virtual Coastguard", a maritime safety initiative that geo-fences an entire country. A geo-fence is a zone of coordinates that any smartphone's GPS can read. Maritime NZ's stretches 15km out from every coastline in the country, ensuring anyone setting out on the water will pass through on it.

This innovative campaign won the 2016 Communication Agencies’ Association of New Zealand awards for "best use of mobile" and "best in show", for the top campaign of the year, and was a finalist at the Cannes Lions international advertising awards out of 41,500 entries. It was created for Maritime NZ by its advertising agency FCB Media.

Maritime NZ’s communications manager Pania Shingleton said: “Over 3 million lifesaving adverts were delivered through ‘Virtual Coastguard’ last summer. The campaign boosted click through engagement to our website up to 700% more than when land-based prompts were used.”

"Last summer there were only 4 boating fatalities, down from 20," she said.geofence mobile ohone picture updateda

The idea behind the campaign was to deliver a safety message to boaties to get their lifejacket on as close to the time as they were going boating as possible – in this case while out on the water.

All boaties had to do was have their mobile and GPS on; and when they crossed the digital geo-fence around New Zealand’s coastline, a lifejacket advert was pushed out to the boaties automatically reminding them to “Get it on or it’s no good”. The other way they received the life-saving prompt was through accessing a marine weather mobile app.

This free app has been downloaded more than 120,000 times and is now used more than 236,000 times a month. Maritime NZ lifejacket and safety messages are delivered through the app 760,000 times a month.

On average about 17 boaties die each year in New Zealand. “More than 1 in 3 New Zealanders get out on the water. We are a boating nation with a small 4.5 million population, using about 960,000 recreational craft, and having a huge 15,000km coastline,” said Ms. Shingleton.

So far, this use of the new digital initiative and the weather app has meant boaties around New Zealand’s coastline have received more than 21.9 million messages while they are either going on the water, or checking a marine weather forecast. Every one of those message reminds them to ‘wear your lifejacket’.

A well as recognition in the advertising industry, Virtual Coastguard has also sparked interest among boating safety organisations all over the world. Maritime NZ is happy for others to take up this idea and build their own geo-fence systems.

"Virtual Coastguard" is an initiative by Maritime NZ supported by its safety partners Coastguard NZ and the NZ Safer Boating Forum.

Watch Maritime NZ’s video to get a clear, visual description of how the system works https://vimeo.com/175756890/b576f88cf7#at=0.

If you wish to contact Maritime NZ about Virtual Coastguard, then please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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