I just received my daily digest from B&T, the advertising trade organ of Australia and I see that the Aussie Tourist Board business is up for grabs again.  Initially I thought it was just a case of a government department, bureaucracy and a fixed-term contract up for renewal, but reading down the text its clear that all is not well.

I have to say, I have no data on this client or the campaign.  The last time that I worked on Aussie Tourism business was too long ago for my insights to be relevant, but I liked this campaign when it broke.  In fact, I was beginning to think that the Aussie Tourism Johnnies (or Waynes) had a real winner on their hands.  However, the figures show that while tourism to Australia is up slightly overall, from the UK and Japan it is actually down.  Nevertheless, this is a very simplistic measurement and too many questions remain unanswered for it to be conclusive evidence that the campaign failed.

The reason that I liked the campaign is that it was consistent with my perceptions of the brand – irreverent, laid back.  The fact that the commercials were briefly banned in the UK and Australia (for using the phrase “bloody hell”) only served to endorse that.  I actually suspected that the ban was a set-up anyway.  So the campaign was controversial, which to my mind is good especially when the objections were seen to be raised by a bunch of sad puritans objecting to the language – more of it I say!  The Australian government of the time endorsed it too, but I guess they had to as they were indirectly responsible. 

Sadly the new Premier has seen fit to add his pearls of wisdom on the matter.  It seems that he objects to the negativity of the strap-line “So where the bloody hell are you?” which makes me feel that somehow he has missed the point.  His suggestion was “Thanks for visiting, see you next time” – yes, clearly an differentiator there!

If the campaign was approved and run then I guess it must have been considered to have answered the brief, which immediately places the brief (or whoever wrote it) in the hot seat.  I often discover that problems like this arise from poor briefing and usually that is a symptom of the commissioning organisation not having a brand model.  However, as I have said, the campaign seemed pretty well on the button as far as my perceptions of Brand Australia is concerned.  I may not be typical of the Aussie target market though and the thing is, if the campaign was representative of the brand and it didn’t appeal to the kind of people who are most likely to travel to Aus then the problem is much deeper that the advertising.

S0, is there a robust enough Brand Model in place?  Is there a clear and efficient process for transferring that model to the brief?  Is the Aussie “promise” accurately represented by the campaign?

If the answer to the last of these questions is “yes” then its clearly a case of having to change the reality of the brand, which will take a long time and a lot of internal marketing.  Before the baby and bathwater scenario comes into play though, it may be that the strategic elements of the campaign were right, but either the tactical messages were off target or that the media was wrong.

I’d be fascinated if somebody could fill in a few of the blanks for me, so if you know anybody who is involved in this debacle, feel free to pass on a link to this blog and hopefully they’ll post a comment.  Meanwhile, the biggest fear that I have is that someone is going to try to make Aussie Tourism’s external communications convey a promise that the brand isn’t able to deliver – and we all know where that ends up  – or that a lack of commitment to being “remarkable” ends up with the brand being undersold by communications that could be about anywhere.  Looking a little deeper into the current result and making tactical rather than strategic changes might be all that it needs.  Although, I have a feeling there’s more politics to this than might be healthy.

Anyway, I’m hooked and looking forward to the next installment.

Michael Weaver
February 7, 2008

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