Baz Luhrmann, Tourism Australia and a walkabout

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If ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ was chalk, this is cheese. Tourism Australia has commissioned Baz Luhrmann to create a new campaign for Australia, that invites consumers to come for a ‘walkabout’.

The campaign includes 2 TV spots and 11 print ads. It is getting mixed reviews in the blogosphere and trade magazines. Check out the comments section at Campaign Brief. But it worked for me. There is a cinematic quality about it that is stirring – some of the folks I showed the ad to said this was ‘goose flesh’ stuff.

‘When you are stressed out- take a break here and rediscover yourself’ isn’t much of a strategy. It could apply to several countries and even the outbacks of USA. But you can’t blame them for taking the ‘least common denominator’ approach. The campaign may have its audience and appeal in 20-odd countries and each one of them would have a different trigger or barrier to visit Australia. In the UK, the distance may be a barrier, it may not be so in LA. So it makes sense to take a platform that will have a wide appeal. It’s like our Bollywood movies – what works in UP may not work in Bangalore and may not work in UK. So they take an approach that is likely to find favour among many. The execution is a winner, though. Looks like they didn’t involve any planners or suits (which may be a good thing!) and left it to Baz Luhrmann to deliver. He has delivered, though the Shanghai film did not work for me as well as the NYC film.

Will it translate into increased tourism into Australia? I am not sure if that even depends on the ad. The ad is timed along with Baz’s feature film, Australia and that may do more good for traffic into Australia! The film has generated a lot of buzz in the blogosphere too – at least the ads are evoking a debate. In my opinion, the advertising agency types will pan it but the ads will be popular.

As an aside, country advertising can help further stereotypes. Visitors come in looking for those stereotypical experiences – India is a land of extremes, a land of mystics and so on. Australia is about sun, sand, beach and the outbacks. New Zealand is pristine. Country advertising rarely changes perceptions about a country. A set of events and celebrities do that – backed up by traditional advertising. Yash Chopra Films did a lot to promote tourism into Switzerland from India. In that context, this film breaks the advertising cliches. The dark, melancholic mood of the film is not your typical pretty pictures tourism ad. Tourism advertising slogans are usually descriptive in approach: ‘Incredible India’, Truly Asia, God’s own country, Surprising Singapore etc. The description is about the place. In ‘Come Walkabout’ there is an invitation that is beyond mere description of the place. It is an invitation to transform. And that will appeal to many.

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