Air Rescue is an action packed six-part TV series following the work of the Westpac Surf Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service. It aired in prime time at 8pm Mondays on major FTA Channel 7. Air Rescue consistently won its time slot week after week averaging 1.5 viewers nationally per episode. It delivered a 6:1 ROI for Westpac and a PR value of $2.2M. It is currently in production series two. 


Branded entertainment is still a relatively new area in Australia. Brands tend towards sponsoring shows in which they can integrate their message. There have been a handful of fully ad-funded shows in market, none of which have been broadcast in primetime. There are no legal restrictions for the 3 free to air channel groups other than regulating programming to appropriate audiences, such as adult content after 7pm.

Challenge & Objectives: 

Westpac, Australia’s first bank, has been proudly supporting Australia and its people for nearly 200 years. A key demonstration of this is the bank’s on-going support for The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service (WLRHS). 

In September 2013, Westpac celebrated the 40th anniversary of this partnership. 

Our core objective was to increase awareness of Westpac’s involvement, whilst improving brand perception and consideration amongst its ‘financially confident and active’ target market. 

The challenge was doing this in a way that didn’t seem self-serving and pushing our agenda, two traits that our audience believed banks were guilty of. 


Our strategy therefore was to show Westpac’s support for the WLRHS, not just talk about it. It needed to be subtle but engaging. 

To do this we did something never done before in Australia. 

We devised, designed, and produced a TV series that was broadcast, in primetime, on Australia’s biggest TV network supported by network promos. 


Air Rescue 

Air Rescue was an edge-of-your-seat factual series that rewrote the observational genre. It skillfully blended the best cinematic storytelling together with the idiosyncrasies and absurdities of real-life personalities. 

To create the ob-doc, we used new technology such as the ‘Hero 3 Black Go Pro’ and then mounted 12 of them on our choppers and crew. We shot all our aerials on a Cineflex, which was key to ensuring the weather and epic Australian landscape were prominent characters in the show. 

Throughout all of this, broadcast in prime time on Australia’s largest TV network, were Westpac branded helicopters, and pilots using ‘Westpac 1’ and ‘Westpac 2’ call signs. Priceless, powerful and most importantly subtle brand communication. 

The TV broadcasts were supported by social media activity and web-based episodes to increase exposure, engagement and activity in between the weekly TV broadcasts.

Air Rescue was broadcast on Australia’s largest free-to-air TV network, Channel 7. We produced 6 x 30 minute episodes and Seven were so impressed by the quality of the show they agreed to air it in the prime 8pm slot on a Monday night and run an extensive support campaign across their TV schedule and digital assets. This is something which had never been achieved for brand-funded content anywhere in Australia, on any network. 

The cross promotion included 15” and 30” promo videos which ran across Seven West Media’s main TV channel, their digital channels and their online assets.

Air Rescue was the first ever fully ad-funded series to air on Australian prime-time TV and it delivered beyond all expectations: 

Audience Delivery: 

• At some point during the campaign period over a quarter of the entire population of Australia tuned in to watch the show. 

• In total over the 6 weeks it was No.1 in its timeslot. 

• The average audience across the 6 weeks was 1.41 million viewers. 

Impact on Brand Measures: (source: MillwardBrown) 

• Overall brand consideration increased by 6% during the broadcasting of Air Rescue and jumped an impressive 15% in our target market. 

• An extra 25% of people said they would consider Westpac for banking services as a result of seeing Air Rescue. 

• Corporate reputation grew 4% to its highest level recorded and jumped 22% against our target market. 

• 87% of people said Air Rescue highlighted the role Westpac plays in the community. 


• Massive social buzz - the teaser videos alone achieved over 1.69 million Twitter impressions and Facebook had over 2 million unique viewers. 

• $2.2 million in PR value. 


• ROI of 6 x greater media value versus traditional advertising.


Silver - The One Show - Branded Entertainment/ Television Branded Content - 2014

Cristal - Cristal Awards - Best Film, Series or Non-fiction Program - Branded Entertainment - 2014

Sapphire - Cristal Awards - Best Use or Integration of Experiential Events - Branded Entertainment - 2014

Winner - Australian Banking and Finance Magazine - Campaign of the Year - 2014

Winner - Campaign Brief Magazine 'The Work' - TV and Film - 2014

Bronze Global Festival of Media - Best Entertainment Platform - 2014

Highly Commended Festival of Media Asia - Best Entertainment Platform - 2014

Shortlist - Spikes Asia - Corporate Image & Information - 2014


Teasers for Episodes 1-6

Webisodes produced to compliment the series online: