Hey, Australia, what the bloody hell you thinking?

What is going on at Tourism Australia?

Its disastrous, 2006 AU$180 million “So where the bloody hell are you?” campaign was banned in the UK for uttering the word, “bloody,” and banned in Canada for portraying excessive alcohol use. While plenty might say negative PR generates news and excitement, the “Bloody” campaign more likely encouraged hostel-hopping youth instead of families with money. And certainly anyone carrying matching sets of Louis Vuitton valises would have been put off by its message. 

Then in 2006 the Australian government spent AU$100 million on global marketing for the movie, Australia, the most expensive tourism infomercial ever produced.* Even the director, Baz Luhrmann, acknowledged that,

“We opened badly in the US – the weekend where we went up against the Reese Witherspoon comedy (Four Holidays), we mis-communicated the film and we collectively failed to get a big audience in on the first weekend.”

Luhrmann even admits this may have cost Australia from getting an Oscar nomination, which would have been an enormous help in promoting the country.

So you’d think Australia Tourism would think really hard about how best to spend its citizens money on marketing and promotion, but what do they do? They pay AU$4 million to Harpo Productions to fly Oprah, her entourage and 300 of her American guests to visit Australia and tape four TV shows.

It’s a fraction of what they spent promoting Australian tourism in the past, but does this investment target the right audience?

Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy told the Australian federal senate that Oprah’s core audience demographic of middle-income women aged 25-54 was right at the heart of the audience Australia wanted to try to influence. According to McEnvoy,

“Those people are the decision makers in travel and tourism.”

Yes, they’re the decision makers but will middle-income American women choose to spend their limited American dollars on flying to an expensive destination or find something for less money that’s closer to home? Maybe even a stay-cation?

Oprah’s four Australia TV shows will get huge audiences and big ratings, and advertisers will pay plenty for airtime. But will Oprah inspire huge numbers of Americans to visit Australia? What do you think?


*Full Disclosure: I was at DDB Los Angeles when the agency worked on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. However, I did not work on that account.


Posted at 12:18 pm on Sun, Dec 19, 2010

Sydney Opera House photo courtesy of Gmetrail



About Robert Moss

I write ads: traditional, non-traditional, interactive, edutainment, story-based, broadcast, and experiential marketing events. Sometimes I write about ads and the business of advertising. Sometimes I write about other stuff. The views expressed here are solely my own and don't reflect the views of my employers. I also published a novel called Descending Memphis that's getting great reviews on Amazon. see http://www.amazon.com/Descending-Memphis-Robert-R-Moss/dp/0692364226
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3 Responses to Hey, Australia, what the bloody hell you thinking?

  1. CharlieQuirk says:

    This is difficult to pinpoint exactly what the rationale for this is.As far away America is, it is still the richest nation on earth, which means tourists willing to part with cash. Furthermore the Aussie sensibility seems to strike a chord with Americans; I have yet to meet an American that doesn’t want to visit Australia.Aussie tourism marketing dollars may well be better spent targeting audiences closer to home, but the the Oprah effect spreads far and wide, far beyond the middle income women aged 25-54. The fact we are discussing it and its making headlines around the world shows the ripple effect it’s causing.Aussie tourism has been on the wane for a while now and I think they thought they had to do something bold and headline grabbing to capture attention from elsewhere. New Zealand has been a one trick pony for a long time, but that single dimension (primordial beauty) has helped their brand compared to “America-lite” version of Australia’s.

  2. Julie says:

    As an America woman in that age group, I absolutely think it will make a difference. Women LOVE Oprah here and everything she stands for. From what I have read travel to Australia has dropped as a result of the strong Australian dollar, I think Oprah telling (and showing) people that it is ok to spend a little more for an awesome trip to Australia could have the intended consequence, more American visitors to Australia.

  3. Robert Moss says:

    Hello Julie,

    Thank you for commenting. I agree many women love Oprah and, yeah, the exchange rate probably isn’t making it any easier for Americans to visit Australia. But I have a question about one of your points. How does Oprah make it okay for people to spend a little more for an awesome trip to Australia?

    A large part of Oprah’s American audience currently can’t afford to fly half way around the world. Maybe more will when the economy improves, but what’s unlikely to change is that most Americans get a 2-week vacation. When they discover how long they’re going to be stuck on a plane, many Americans start looking for places that are closer and won’t give them extreme jet lag.

    Australia is an amazing place. I’d love to go there one day and stay for more than two weeks. It’s unique biodiversity makes it a great place for tourists. But it makes it an even better place for scientists.

    An article on LifeScientist.au entitled, “Budget 2010: Not much for science or biotech,” points out the lack of needed funding for 2010-2011.

    One area that received virtually no attention was science and biotechnology, with no major announcements of any further investment in these two sectors.


    The response to the budget from the scientific community has been one of disappointment in a ‘missed opportunity’ to invest in the long term future of Australian science and innovation.

    Professor Garry Jennings, Director of the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, welcomed the emphasis on health, but expressed disappointment that there was no investment in health research.

    “The deafening silence on health research funding in the budget raises the question of where and how innovation will occur,” he said.

    This makes me question the choice to spend money on attracting tourists, when it has the opportunity to invest in Australian scientific research. Research that could pay off in novel drugs that could improve healthcare around the world. Research that could pay off in developing the Australian biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Why just be another place in the sun?

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