Colenso BBDO Auckland


Whilst te reo Māori (New Zealand’s indigenous language) has steadily seen an increase in a number of revitalisation efforts across the nation — especially in recent years — actual te reo learning opportunities remain limited and sometimes inaccessible. Just 3% of the population speak te reo Māori fluently.

So, for Te Wiki o te reo Māori (Māori Language Week) 2018, Spark wanted to do something truly useful to help and deliver on their purpose: to help Kiwis win big in a digital world.

Our vision was to provide all New Zealanders with an accessible and easy way to learn te reo Māori, every day.

With the benefit of being one of New Zealand’s largest mobile providers, the solution seemed obvious: the answer was already sitting in 3.8 million Kiwis’ pockets.

To deliver a cutting-edge learning experience, Spark partnered with Te Aka Māori Dictionary and Google to launch Kupu: an app that translates the world around you into re reo Māori one picture at a time. This way of bite-sized language learning through the common action of taking a photo makes for a modern way to learn an ancient language.

Using Google Cloud Vision and Google Translate APIs, supported by knowledge from Te Aka Māori Dictionary data, Kupu uses real-time Machine Learning to understand objects in your photos and translate them into te reo Māori. It serves up the most likely translation and pronunciation, then provides other options for what it detects in the image. It also enables user feedback, where people can input words and make corrections, so the app is constantly learning and iterating.

The proposition was simple: take a photo, learn a language.

The name was equally as simple: ‘kupu’ is the direct te reo Māori translation of ‘word.’

We crafted a campaign around the seemingly mundane: everyday Kiwi objects. Through Kupu, the world became a playground for te reo learning.

Kupu’s core recognition/translation feature was the hero of every static and dynamic asset we had available to us, transforming every media placement into a Kupu experience. On social, we used the Kupu user-interface as the key motif and literally translated ‘tattoo’ into its te reo counterpart, ‘kirituhi,’ just like you would see using the app.

To create the same experience with digital AV, we adapted the creative to the content the viewer was watching. On YouTube, people watching cooking videos saw pre-roll bumper ads for ‘herbs,’ ‘bread’ and ‘bowl.’ For ‘animal’ videos, you experienced the Kupu translation of ‘cat’ or ‘dog.’
We blanketed Kiwis with translations wherever they turned, using a mix of website takeovers, pre-rolls, digital banners, influencers and social to make an impact.

The creative was simply designed to show the product in action, calling upon Kiwis to download Kupu, explore with it, and learn from it.

By the end of the first 24 hours, Kupu generated 35,051 downloads, exceeding total campaign targets by 119%. And by the first two weeks, Kupu had 120,000+ downloads, 2 million image translations and 2.5 million+ audio plays (word pronunciations), again, far exceeding targets.

Interaction rate was 4,372%, meaning the average user took 15 photos and played 29 audio clips. Using the app’s share functionality, users shared image translations they’d taken 3,260 times, 30% over our social share target.

Kupu was the #1 trending app on The App Store and Google Play, with an estimated earned media reach of 6.4 million.

Most recently, Kupu won the 2018 Supreme Māori Language Award at Ngā Tohu Reo Māori (National Māori Language Awards), held to recognise initiatives that are revitalising te reo Māori in New Zealand. To win the Supreme Award by the very body who are committed to language promotion in New Zealand is possibly the highest honour in this area.

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The tech and software used to create Kupu is to be made free to use with any indigenous language in the world.

The merging of an indigenous language and modern technology has enabled the delivery of a truly innovative mobile learning experience, which will only continue to adapt, evolve and improve over time, delivering even better te reo Māori learning outcomes.


  • SparkClient

Who pooled - Kupu