Searching for the sweet spot . . . Tom Sainsbury, pictured at River-T Estate, is the face of the latest episode of Tourism Waitaki's "Sweet Spot of New Zealand" campaign. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Tourism Waitaki is patting itself on the back for its new “Sweet Spot” campaign, but online reaction has been mixed.

The 16-week marketing campaign, dubbing the district the “Sweet Spot of New Zealand”, aims to encourage New Zealanders and Australians to discover the “true meaning of sweetness” by visiting the Waitaki district.

The first video features Mayor Gary Kircher eating Rainbow Confectionery lollies after approving Waitaki as the “Sweet Spot of New Zealand”, and the second, released last week, stars New Zealand comedian Tom Sainsbury as a steampunk explorer, a Victorian woman, and sugar-loving small child.

Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro said Mr Sainsbury was a natural fit.

“I believe the essence of our region has been captured, the video is light-hearted, quirky and Tom was such a lovely person to have involved, he holds a genuine interest in the area and this shows.”

Mrs Munro said Tourism Waitaki had been congratulated by locals and others around New Zealand for an ” original, quirky, fun, and heart-warming” campaign.

But it has prompted a decidedly mixed reaction online.

Oamaru artist Donna Demente said Tourism Waitaki had completely missed the mark.

“I’m a big Tom [and Oamaru] fan but I find all of the promotional stuff being made of late cringe-worthy,” she wrote on Facebook.

“Who is it targeting? Certainly not the cultured and intelligent and freethinking.”

The problem lay with Tourism Waitaki’s overall mandate, not the individuals responsible, she said.

It was a missed opportunity to create something “really clever”.

Another person on Facebook said “I hope no-one from out of the district sees this”, while another described the campaign as “dreadful”.

Mrs Munro said it was always a risk to do something different.

“Tourism is changing. You need to give visitors an angle, an idea, and a heartfelt story they’ve never seen before that they can connect to – and, of course, you can’t connect with everyone.”

Funding for the $17,000 project had come from the government’s strategic tourism asset protection programme.

“With the Sweet Spot campaign, which was produced in-house and not funded by ratepayers, we’ve owned the quirkiness of the district and created something that most of our community are proud to stand behind.”

There are seven more episodes to be released.