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Tourism Australia steers clear of controversy

Tourism Australia steers clear of controversy

For the third year in a row, Australia has been named as the world’s top country-brand by brand strategy and design consultancy FutureBrand - so what is it about Australia’s brand that makes it resonate with travellers? We sat down with Tim Jones, regional marketing manager from Tourism Australia to find out.

Tourism Australia’s global campaign, created by M&C Saatchi, put the country, it’s people and its slang on the world stage in 2005. The problem was though, not everyone seemed to appreciate its humorous undertones.

Its “Where the bloody hell are you?” strapline certainly stuck in people’s minds - but consequently, the campaign was slammed by the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK for its use of the term “bloody”, which was considered as an offensive swear word by some.

The campaign was also criticised by The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) for not developing sufficient procurement plans and not establishing in its service contracts a strong framework for measuring the effectiveness of campaigns.

Australian Prime Minster Kevin Rudd also jumped on the bandwagon and called the campaign a “rolled gold disaster”.

The new campaign, directed by Oscar nominated director Baz Luhrmann, is aiming for far less controversy. So much so that it has already received criticisms for not communicating enough about what Australia is about and again relying on iconic, already known images.

Stephen Byrne, brand and marketing strategy director at Diffusion says: “I understood Tourism Australia’s strategy was to move away from the standard iconic images of brand Australia into a broader expression of the sum total of an Australia experience.

“While the film ads are beautifully shot and produced there is no real movement away from what is already regarded as an atypical set of images of Australia.”
Tourism Australia’s Tim Jones says that despite the criticisms, the campaign has been well received.

He explains, “The feedback has been that people like the fact that the broadcast advertisements look and feel like short films and stand out from other advertisements.  Viewers are also intrigued by the concept of ‘going walkabout’.”

However, will the campaign be successful in luring tourists to the land down under - or will it alienate tourists into a false sense of security by showing images of magic sands and mythical landscapes?

Jones says the strategy behind the campaign is to play at an emotive level and the universal story appeals to a wide demographic. The campaign can never be a geographic descriptor, Australia as a holiday proposition is a complex one but one that can be distilled into an emotive benefit.

“The campaign captures the real benefit of what a holiday in Australia has to offer. I think everybody can identify with losing focus and forgetting what’s really important to them.  A holiday in Australia is a way that can reconnect you, with the power to transform and rejuvenate you,” explains Jones.

Tourism Australia’s research over many years has identified a group of travellers who, regardless of their culture or background, are looking for experiences that Australia offers.

Jones identifies these travellers as ‘experience seekers’ - people who are generally well-travelled, who are looking for authenticity and adventure and who see travel as an essential part of who they are.

In 2006, following the launch of the “bloody” tourism campaign, Australia saw its number of tourists increase by 0.6 per cent to 5.5 million visitors for the year injecting $14 billion into the country’s economy.  

But in tough economic times, can Luhrmann’s campaign, along with his £80 billion epic film, Australia, lure tourists to the land down under?

Jones says, “In the current economic climate, convincing people to travel is harder than ever. Tourism Australia is looking to this campaign to create urgency, buzz and fashionability around the Australian tourism brand.

“The campaign is based around the notion that exploring Australia can have a transformative effect on your life. This notion, that Australia is a place to experience, not just to see, is central to Australia’s tourism brand.”

He adds that a sense of invitation is essential and in this campaign is expressed through the words of the Aboriginal boy who invites the consumer to “Come Walkabout”.

“When you go “Walkabout” you leave the pressures of everyday life behind to re-discover what is important to you. This concept is intrinsically linked to the cultural and traditional beliefs of the Australian Aboriginal people, making it uniquely Australian.”

Australia was one of the first to see itself as an actual brand and has developed a strong brand, which is based on the combination of the people, place and land.

Ask anyone what they think of when they think of Australia and they are bound to include beaches, Koala’s, the Harbour Bridge and the laid back Aussie attitude. All things that Jones says are essential to promoting the country as a unique experience.

“Our ‘experience seeker’ audience travel to experience the difference and the Aussie welcome, friendly attitude and laidback lifestyle is one of our key unique selling points.

The invitation was issued in a cheeky irreverent way in our last campaign and in our new creative executions it is delivered by an Aboriginal boy using the idea of ‘walkabout’ – again very unique to Australia,” explains Jones.

The UK’s connection with Australia stems back more than 200 years. However, the challenge for the Australia now is to keep itself at the top of the holiday agenda for Brits.

Jones knows that Brits who travel to Australia once, are more likely to return again, with research revealing more than 50 per cent of annual visitors from the UK are returning travellers.

But the strategy to keep the Brits coming is to focus on protecting and growing the country’s position among first time visitors. Recent research has also suggested that Brits see holidays as a necessity and not a luxury, so it is important for the tourism body to leverage this notion, according to Jones.

In terms of luring the younger visitors, the tourism body concentrates on refreshing Australia’s image amongst young ‘experience seekers’, highlighting the benefits of the Australian Working Holiday Visa.

The Working Holiday Visa allows 18-30 year olds to live, work and travel in Australia for up to a 12 month period.  With this target demographic in mind and following the results of a focus group and other research, Tourism Australia entered into the social networking space earlier this year and created two dedicated pages on MySpace ( and Bebo (

Each market is also currently working with Twentieth Century Fox in conjunction with Luhrmann’s film.

Jones explains, “As a global film event, and with the extraordinary power of films in stimulating tourism, Tourism Australia sees Australia the movie as acting as a catalyst to motivate people to travel to Australia now and for Australians to rediscover their own country.”

But the country is currently facing some stiff competition. Other long haul destinations such as South America and South Africa are luring away tourists in search of a more exotic adventure.

Jones even says Tourism Australia is fighting competition from sources other than travel, “You could argue we compete with a new kitchen or car to name but a few.”

The current economic downtown presents a challenge for Jones. He says that Tourism Australia’s strategy is to keep Australia top of mind with consumers but the internet’s role in the tourism industry poses a threat.   

“The internet has changed the travel industry enormously. People can now research destinations at the click of a button bit more importantly can make and change a decision based on the experience and feedback from others.”

However, Jones plans to leverage the wide world of digital to talk to the target audience in their own language, and through the media they prefer, display content that is compelling, authentic and includes first-hand experience from peers as well as
provide an authentic environment for young travellers to share their own stories through the website

Australian wine brand Jacob’s Creek has also teamed up with Luhrmann’s Australia to launch an integrated marketing campaign aimed at driving sales and promoting the film as well as Australia as a brand.

The current Tourism Australia advertising campaign will extend as is into mid 2009 with creative agency DDB currently working on how to develop the campaign for late 2009/2010.

Jones concludes, “From the outback, to the unique coastal lifestyle, to our unique wildlife, a holiday to Australia can offer so many different experiences.”

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