From One Spokesperson To Millions

Tapping into the collective genius to remix the most iconic tourism ad of all time

Jesse Desjardins
Jul 26, 2015 · 45 min read

(a short version of a long master’s thesis)

Chapter 1: Introduction

‘It’s everything the world is not now’

The iconic ‘shrimp on the barbie’ Australian tourism ad 1984
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Tourism Australia’s @Australia Instagram profile
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This inquiry uses a suite of methodologies. They include a review of academic literature, content analysis of TA’s historical and present day tourism campaigns, quantitative and qualitative surveys/interviews with followers of TA’s social profiles, industry stakeholders, government statistics, and written and oral accounts of Hogan’s history, advertising industry and TA’s corporate history.

Chapter 2:
Hoges: uncovering
‘that character’

2.01 Paul Hogan and New Faces: the rigger who got into show business for a laugh — 1971

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2.02 ‘Hoges’: The pub philosopher — 1971

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Paul Hogan, Mike Willesee & John Cornell

2.03 Winfield Cigarettes: Hogan the ‘suave, sophisticated man about town.’ — 1972

2.04 The Paul Hogan Show: light-hearted but laddish ocker humour 1973–1984

2.05 Fosters: Hogan the real spokesperson 1982–84

‘If I tried to sell French champagne it would be a different story.
They wouldn’t believe that and it wouldn’t work. And soap powder wouldn’t work. People would know I didn’t know a thing about washing powder. No amount of money will make me tell lies’ (Oram, 1987).

‘a blind man on a galloping horse should be able to see the tourist potential of the place. If we can’t sell Australia, we can’t sell anything.’

2.06 Hogan’s pitch to cabinet: ‘you give Brownie the money’ — 1983

‘we spent $70,000 on that submission and we didn’t even have the business’. — Allan Johnston. Mojo (2015)

‘there was a bloody outcry from all of the commentators, even a lot of people in the tourism industry. The claim was that this was sort of downgrading Australia’s image and using an ocker and all that’.

2.07 Mojo: the agency that spoke the language of the people

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To save any confusion when answering the phone at their newly formed consultancy, they shortened Morris to ‘Mo’ and Johnston to ‘Jo’ (Rudder, 2011).

2.08 The Wonders Down Under campaign — come on, come and say g’day — 1984

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2.09 The results — success has many fathers, failure is an orphan

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Bill Baker, NYC Manager, Australian Tourist Commission 1984–1988
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After the initial success of the Wonders Down Under campaign and the increase in arrival numbers, the government kept increasing the ATC’s appropriation
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Staff levels at the ATC remained consistently low even while appropriation and arrivals increased in the 80–90s

Every survey we’ve done shows that the best image of Australia abroad, our best selling point, was our friendly nature, our offhandedness, our irreverence. Our iconoclastic nature appealed to Americans. We were the happy, friendly, easy-going Australians. Hogan embodies all of these qualities.
In fact I’d say he is the quintessential Australian.

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Example of a colourful character involved at the time. ‘John Brown has, of course, had his critics. His overseas travelling expenses have had him labelled “The Minister for Good Times”. “Minister for Good Times? What’s wrong with that?” is his response.’— The Australian, 1 Jan ‘87

2.10 What Hoges got out of it — The priceless and non-committal deed

I have a price — and they wouldn’t be able to meet it. And I’m not going to work for a small fee and thereby reduce the price I’d charge everyone else around the world who wants to sell something. Doing them for nothing is the best way out of it. (Oram, 1987)

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2.11 Crocodile Dundee: the real payout for Hoges

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Crocodile Dundee (1986) ‘That’s not a knife.. THAT’s a knife.’

I was in New York doing talk-shows and radio interviews to promote the Australian Tourist Commission campaign. I was treated very nicely but also like I was a Martian. I guess I was a bit of a novelty because I was Australian. It wasn’t just the way I talked, though. It was my attitude toward things. People laughed at what I said. I thought it was funny, but they also laughed because I was different, so it occurred to me that if people thought I was funny, then they’d split their sides over some of the outback outlaws that I’d struck up with in the Territory over the years. New Yorkers would think they were in a time warp if they met some of those blokes; the Territory and New York are the opposite ends of the Western civilization.

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The success of the ads had its critics. — Sydney Morning Herald — 16 Oct 1986

People are so dumb sometimes in Australia. What are we going to do, put a nice sensible hard-working accountant in a film and say ‘Here’s a typical Australian, hard-working, industrious’ Everyone would yawn and say ‘Never go to Australia’. And he’s not a typical Australian, Crocodile Dundee… he’s a mythical Australian’ (Wilmoth, 1986)

‘I’m the only person to open the Oscars without a script’— Paul Hogan (O’Shaughnessy, 2013)

2.12 The complicated breakup: The shrimp gets burnt to a crisp — 1989

‘from the word go, because [Hogan] wasn’t being paid anything, it was pretty hard to tell him anything. We couldn’t fire him. When he goes, he goes. Now after three years… he was talented and getting pretty difficult about it… he was trying to force us to drop the ads, the old ones, and put new ones in.’

There was no written contract, but we did have a verbal one.
Our only demand was that our country was to be marketed
to at least the same standard as a brewery promoted its beer. No cheap looking ads, no endless repetition of the same old commercials.

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Daily Mirror 1990
‘Hello, I’m Evan Conover with the US State Department… Unfortunately, Bart, your little escapade could not have come at a worse time. … Americo-Australianian relations are at an all-time low… As I’m sure you remember, in the late 1980s, the US experienced a short-lived infatuation with Australian culture. For some bizarre reason, the Aussies thought this would be a permanent thing. Of course, it wasn’t. … Anyway, the Down Under fad fizzled and the diplomatic climate turned absolutely frosty.’

Finally they won, and said, ‘The Hogan years are over. A billion people wrote a billion words, and there was no point trying to fight City Hall. But you can put [the ad] on air tomorrow, and it would work just as powerfully as it did then, particularly if you updated the characters. If you kept the essential ingredients, and the emotional appeal. Warmth, and friendship, the authenticity. They’re timeless.’

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Chapter 3:
Remixing the ‘shrimp on the barbie’ by tapping into the collective genius of millions

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3.01 Trust: your license to operate and your ability to resonate

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Prime Minster Bob Hawke, Paul Hogan and Tourism Minister John Brown — page 1 of Wonders Down Under Booklet
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Leo in our corporate comms team provided us with this statement: ‘Anybody who’s familiar with our Facebook page, knows we like to have a bit of fun with our posts, and when Featherdale Wildlife Park sent us this cracker of a photo we just couldn’t resist sharing it with our fans — in all of its magnificent glory, or nearly all!’
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Small typo on TA’s @Australia Instagram account makes news. The Issue was fixed straight away and I never got a ‘talk’ by the Waverly Mayor.
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My friend Tim Evans drew this out for me while I was talking to him about this chapter. I think it sums it up quite nicely.

3.02 Authenticity: not just put on for show

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Features on @Australia are not staged and come from real people who are experiencing the product.
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The majority of comments on the @Australia Instagram account contain a tag for someone outside of our current follower base to come see the story being featured.
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A survey of our current Facebook fans showed that the vast majority of the respondents had already been to Australia. Speaking to this group is more powerful than speaking to an audience who knows very little or who is skeptical of your message. If we focus not only on telling them stories, but on giving them a story to tell to their network, we increase the reach and authenticity of the message.
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Many spokespeople for destinations fail because they are not accepted by residents

Australians are unique. I think they’re one of the great peoples on the face of the Earth. I really do believe that beneath the rough in here, they’re friendly and they’re helpful, and they’re fair dinkum, which is a great Ozzie word. And we would be lying if we said, ‘Come down to Australia and meet Olivia or Mel Gibson’ because they’re not. They’re going to meet roughies like you and me … So, I sort of tell them the truth (60 Minutes, 1984).

3.03 Letting the outside in: the mojo of millions

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The media channels of the 80s allowed only for a very limited narrative. Pleasing all stakeholders was almost an impossible task. Social allows for almost an unlimited amount of different narratives to be told in a coordinated effort.

Getting an ad through Tourism Australia is like getting a bill passed in Parliament. It’s slow and painful and important. It’s highly political. If you put a palm tree in, Victoria gets upset. If you put a tram in, Queensland is pissed off. It’s a hot potato politically, as you can imagine.

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TA’s approach to social media is to allow the community to contribute via a hashtag, take the best stories that represent the brand narrative, slightly edit and give those stories bigger distribution.
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Here’s an example of how we made a follower of the @Australia account a spokesperson. By using a photo from @islandjems, we’re allowing this person to co-create the narrative with us. Often the person featured will be answering all the questions posed by other fans. These interactions are far more authentic than what TA can provide. This approach also allows us to bring in other stakeholders. In this case by mentioning @tropicalnorthqueensland we’re allowing our audience to find out more about the destination.
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Cut from the video featured on Facebook.
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Facebook’s Little Red Book 2012

3.04 Move the people to the next step: call this toll-free number

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Example of how the social media team move people to the next step
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Albums like the Friday Fans Photos allow for multiple narratives to be told within a template that produces predictable results

3.05 Replicable & scalable: efforts that get bigger over time

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Platforms that are designed to get bigger over time generate more long term value than one off campaigns.
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Wedding Cake Rock in Royal National Park outside of Sydney has recently had to close due to safety reasons. Visitor numbers increased from 2000 to 10000 walkers each months. Officials say popularity was driven by social media. Was it because of a few high profile features? Or thousands of features on smaller accounts? or both?
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In TA’s latest iteration of There’s Nothing Like Australia, the organisation aimed to changed the perception of Australia’s Food + Wine offering. Over 48k submissions have already been sent through #RestaurantAustralia. What’s amazing is that members of the community are learning from each other and producing stories that far exceeded the original positioning set out by the organisation when the initiative launched.

3.06 Value exchange: raising everyone’s game

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TA’s Facebook profile provides a connection between consumers and the industry. The greater the participation in the platform the great the value created for everyone involved.
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In an ABC radio (Fleming, 2014) interview Jade Stafford, a regular follower of @Australia on Instagram, went on a holiday to Hamilton Island after being inspired by a photo on the account. During her visit she took her own photo and submitted it to the account and it was featured by TA. She was later interviewed on the radio about her experience and spoke for over five minutes. The interview was unprompted by TA but highlights that anyone — even Stafford who by day is a child care worker — can have as much reach as Hogan did in 1980s.
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3.07 Leadership through soft power: getting people to work with you

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Chapter 4:
Conclusion

Setting the stage

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John Rowe (2015), ATCs Managing Director 1983–89 at his home office in Melbourne. I had so many good laughs in this interview. What a legend!

‘we are all as Australians continuing the very thing [Hogan] started, which is what people love about us overseas. He planted it in their heads, and we have all embraced it and taken it from that moment.’

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