Timing can be everything when it comes to publicity campaigns. Get it wrong and months of planning and creative flair can fall horribly flat not to mention the outlay of a considerable amount of money. The decision by Tourism Australia to spend $15 million on a TV campaign in the UK, launched just before Christmas, might have originally seemed like a good one. After all, it is winter there – cold, wet and bleak and what better time to lure sun-seeking Brits to our golden shores.
Unfortunately for the advertising gurus, the campaign has been completely overshadowed by the grim reality of the current bushfires, which have received major coverage in the UK. A country ablaze and the choking smoke that has enveloped all the major cities and towns is hardly an incentive for British tourists to pack their bags and head south.
Bushfires aside, the three minute TV advert was met with a mixed reception here, many labelling it cringe-worthy. Is there a much stronger word than that, because personally I found it about as nauseous as the notorious 2006 Where The Bloody Hell Are Ya fiasco featuring Lara Bingle. It’s no secret that it was Scott Morrison, Australian Tourism Minister at the time, who signed off on that $150 million debacle. Ironically that supposedly catchy slogan has come back to haunt him as many questioned “Where The Bloody Hell Are Ya Scott” when he was holidaying in Hawaii whilst the country burned.
The current UK commercial features Kylie Minogue, who one can only guess received a substantial slab of the $15 million budget for her appearance. You might remember ABC senior management here were negotiating with Kylie back in 2008 to produce a singing commercial extolling the virtues of the national broadcaster. A payment of some $750,000 was widely rumoured though never confirmed by management.
Also featured is another Aussie ex-pat Adam Hills, well known to UK TV audiences with his show The Last Leg and the ubiquitous Shane Warne, both of whom were no doubt well rewarded for their inclusion in the promo. Thank God Rolf Harris is still in disgrace!
Rather than trot out the usual cuddly fauna of koalas, wombats and rock wallabies, the producers went for a lesser-known marsupial in the quokka. It is, after all, an all-singing commercial so the latter is easier to rhyme, hence part of the song which goes, “Negotiating tricky trade deals is a shocker, but look there’s a quokka.” Enough said!
I honestly feel a much cheaper and decidedly more appealing version of the commercial could have been produced with all the luminaries donating their services in the interests of promoting this great tourist destination. We begin with a panoramic shot of Bondi Beach, shrouded in bushfire smoke but quickly emerging from the surf, a resilient Tony Abbott, clad of course in a body-hugging pair of speedos.
“Nothing to worry about with the smoke,” he calmly reassures. “Climate change is bullshit and we’ll all be back to normal by the time you get here.”
“The only smoke you’ll have to worry is from the barbie,” chimes in shock jock Alan Jones along with Ian Plimer, Malcolm Roberts and Rowan Dean, as we drop in on a typical all Aussie celebration at Pauline Hanson’s farm.
Draped in a massive Australian flag, Pauline soon bursts into a rousing version of I Am, You Are, We Are Australian. “Come on over Brits,” she enthuses, “but Muslims leave those burqas at home.”
“Australia, don’t you just love it,” shouts Scott Morrison, enjoying a pineapple mocktail on the beach along with his good mate Brian Houston. Filmed of course during his holiday in Hawaii but a bit of clever CGI quickly converts Waikiki to a stretch of South Cronulla.
And to top it all, you might have guessed, there is a quokka included – but not just any old macropod. This one sings, with a voice like Alvin in the Chipmunks, and as all the cast gathers in the Fox After Dark studios, it breaks out in a stirring rendition of Kylie’s Lucky, Lucky, Lucky.
Finally, there’s a light-hearted voiceover from somebody who sounds a lot like the Federal member for Kennedy, Bob Katter. “Okay you bloody Brits, if you’re not coming out here to pick fruit, then bugger off to Benidorm.” It’s a gag of course but hey, we Aussies love a laugh.