Dentsu Creative (Aotearoa) 8 Know your pulse, know your whakapapa

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Directors
    Brad Stratton, Hadleigh Sinclair
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Directors
    Steven Nute, Shevonee Muthiah
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Haumi, Nic Staveley, Steve Gulik
  • Client
    The Heart Foundation NZ


Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is a condition that causes an irregular or rapid heartbeat, which, if left undetected, can lead to stroke or heart failure. Unfortunately, this condition disproportionately affects Māori and Pasifika communities in New Zealand.

In 2021, the Heart Foundation was commissioned by the Ministry of Health to develop and implement a campaign to promote awareness and early detection of AF through pulse check education among these higher-risk communities.

Developed to honour the principles of Te Tiriti O Waitangi, the collaborative project began by understanding the barriers to engagement with primary healthcare and ways to connect with the at-risk communities through te ao Māori and Pacific cultural frameworks and understanding. The strategy work was underpinned by rich cultural perspectives and strategic guidance and worked to synthesise the feedback from consultation with Māori healthcare providers.

The strategic process uncovered the role of an individual’s pulse as a significant connection to whakapapa. This insight was further supported by an acknowledgment of the significance of te poutokomanawa or the heart post that is the most essential support in a whare. Parents and grandparents are metaphorical poutokomanawa for their whānau. If the heart post falls, so does the household.

The carvings or toi whakairo of poutokomanawa are undertaken by master craftsmen using their skills and the rhythm or beat of the mallet – pātukituki, and each beat of the mallet tells a story.

Taking the concept of carving, the heart post, and pātukituki, we placed it at the centre of the campaign to frame the importance of knowing your pulse in cultural rather than clinical terms.


We worked with Master Carver James Rickard to bring to life the meaning of pātuktuki (the pulse or beat of the carver’s mallet) and link it to the key message ‘Know your pulse, know your whakapapa.’

James introduces himself through his pepeha and begins to carve the wood as he explains the dangers of an irregular heartbeat if left undetected. We focused on the act of carving and its rhythm and used a rich black and red tone across all of the work produced in video, print and social.

A separate execution was developed in consultation with Pacific cultural advisors featuring well-known Pacific drummer Kura Taruia. For Pasifika, the heartbeat or rhythm was represented by traditional drums, which also expresses the heralding of important news.


Through consultation and testing, our Kaupapa and approach were endorsed by those working in communities and primary healthcare. The authentic approach to storytelling and use of metaphors that resonate with Māori and Pasifika communities will continue to be used by the Heart Foundation.

And although the ability to carry out pulse checks in the community was not possible due to Covid-19, the campaign was reoriented and focused on online engagement and education, with the James Rickard “Pulse Check’ video attracting more than 8,000 views on YouTube and almost 3,000 thru-plays on Facebook to date.