Tourism ads too ‘white-collar’


Tourism chiefs have had to defend a new $40 million advertising campaign inspired by the film Australia after an expert criticised it for targeting city-dwelling white-collar professionals to the exclusion of older tourists, families and singles.

The filmmaker Baz Luhrmann created two ads to to capitalise on the publicity surrounding the release of his blockbuster next month. Both ads depict how a trip to Australia helps stressed-out couples living in cities get their lives back on track. The ads, which urge visitors to “go walkabout”, screened in British cinemas on Wednesday night and will be distributed to 21 other countries over the next few weeks.

Roger March, a marketing expert at the Australian School of Business, said the portrayal of urban couples without children was a “high-risk strategy” because it would not resonate with other potential visitors. Unlike the Paul Hogan “shrimp on the barbie” ads of the 1980s, which used Australian character and humour to lure US visitors across the board, the ads were too focused on one type of traveller, Dr March said.

“The target market is very narrow: stressed-out urban couples without children. Can we expect singles, families, seniors and other segments to relate and respond positively to these ads? And what of people who do not live in cities?” Dr March said.

He said the benefits of the holiday shown in the ads – one shows a couple swimming in a billabong, the other someone dancing in the lee of a baobab tree – are not the type sought by all potential visitors. Many Asian tourists, for example, stay in the cities.

Dr March also said not every person will feel their lives have been transformed by a visit to Australia, so the ads raise the potential to disappoint.

Much is riding on the campaign that will run until June. The number of holiday-makers to Australia fell by 4.7 per cent in the last financial year and the tourism industry has leapt on the campaign as a potential saviour.

Tourism Australia’s marketing director, Nick Baker, said he lacked the budget to make ads to target every type of traveller and the ads sold an emotional connection that would be recognised by all. Print ads accompanying the Luhrmann spots feature singles and older people, Mr Baker said.

The ads will be judged a success if they attract a further 166,000 visitors by the end of next year.