06 June, 2010

Sing a song to sell Australia

Melbourne Herald Sun, 5 June 2010

Can you believe that the United States created its first tourism board just a month ago? Before that they have always believed that tourists will come of their own accord, while local states did their own promotions.

But then a survey - by a British company, Oxford Economics no less - concluded that were the yanks to stir themselves, they could attract an additional 1.6 million tourists a year. And an extra $4 billion to their economy. Handy even by US standards.

So finally President Barak Obama signed the Travel Promotion Act - under severe criticism from Republicans of course - and enacted a $10 surcharge on every non-visa visitor to America, as a donation to the cause.

Of course here in Australia we read this with disbelief. Tourism campaigns have been so much of our national life and psyche, for so many years.

Like them or not, we are all aware of the campaigns of the past 30 years, and the fact that they have dragged millions of the curious half way around the world to stare at our kangaroos and empty spaces.

The grandaddy of them all is our favourite grandaddy (well most of us), Paul Hogan in the “Put a shrimp on the barbie” campaign. This Mojo Advertising gem pushed Australia up the US “Dream Destination” research stakes - from number 78 to number one in a matter of months, and it stayed there for 20 years. So don’t say that advertising doesn’t work.

The problem then becomes, how do you follow up on such a huge success? You try to be clever and that isn’t always easy. “Where the bloody hell are you?” was clever but also a major public relations problem. Sure, no publicity is bad publicity as PT Barnum said, and it made us top of the world talkback charts for a while, but a campaign that is banned in several of the key countries is really not very effective.

Baz Luhrman then strode onto the stage with a campaign based around his blockbuster Australia. Alas it didn’t do a huge amount of good for either the movie or the country, but it was a short-term stopgap.

This week Australia launched its new TV campaign and this one is “designed for the next 10 years” says the Tourism Commission with lots of hope and hyperbole.

You’ll see it soon enough. It starts with lone voices, mostly pretty bad, and a piano on the beach (borrowed from New Zealand?). Bit by bit it grows into a catchy anthem, with the usual surf and koalas, Ayers Rock, Kangaroos and helicopter shots. In fact it’s like an amalgam of every tourist ad you’ve ever seen, including barbies and schooners of beer thrust at the lens.

But I can’t be too critical. After all, this is what will bring the punters in. We have to appeal to their dreams and fantasies. Canada’s “Locals Know” campaign has helicopter shots of the Rockies, grizzleys frolicking and snaking snow trails.

South Africa is being clever in its World Cup run-up, with a campaign called “Do the Diski dance”, showing individuals from schoolboy to waitress to footballer - no not singing, but dancing. They’re all bouncing from side to side to a very South African tune and inevitably become a crowd.

Then New Zealand has its 100% New Zealand ads, with lots of helicopters over mountain tops and restaurants in the vineyards. Ah yes, show them what they want to see.

In fact the cleverest ad was one I reported on nearly a year ago, from Australia. That “Best job in the world” campaign that turned a million dollar investment into a hundred million dollars worth of free publicity. But these you only see once in a lifetime.



Anonymous said...

I love your columns Ray.

Keep it up.

Sean Cummins

Anonymous said...

I love your columns Ray.

Keep it up.

Sean Cummins