The ‘shrimp on the barbie’ tourism ad and the Crocodile Dundee movies starring Paul Hogan contributed to an extraordinary jump in visitor numbers to Australia in the late 1980s. Hogan’s charm and charisma made him one of Australia’s most influential spokespersons of that time and, indeed, maybe of all time. But it wasn’t just Hogan. A unique and incredible interplay of circumstances, politics, and personalities combined to create a seismic shift in how Australia and other countries around the world promoted themselves as holiday destinations.
However, now 30 years on Australia is far too multicultural and complex a brand to be represented by a single spokesperson. But, by tapping into the collective genius of Australians, the tourism industry, and millions of international visitors, Tourism Australia (TA) is harnessing a new form of destination advocacy. By embracing the power of social media, Australia’s national tourism organisation has created an army of passionate advocates who, collectively, have become perfect spokespeople for today. Each and every day they are helping to tell Australia’s rich and varied brand story in a far deeper and more powerful way than was ever achieved by Paul Hogan and Australia’s most iconic tourism ad. This investigation identifies the seven pillars that made the Wonders Down Under campaign so successful, and how they can be applied in the social media landscape. Not only is it possible for TA to recreate the factors that generated such groundbreaking marketing momentum, it can amplify the winning formula that made the Wonders Down Under one of the most iconic tourism campaigns of all time.
by Jesse Desjardins
Global Manager, Social & Content
Chapter 1: Introduction
‘It’s everything the world is not now’
‘I love that ad. I think the one thing it has that we’ve never been able to repeat is that it’s not self-conscious. I think this sort of larrikin, having fun, laid-back, easygoing, is everything the world’s not now. If I was looking at the strategy moving forward, I would be looking back to this. Not to do that again, but that character is what we need.’
- Todd Sampson, CEO, Leo Burnett Australia
Panelist, Gruen Transfer, ABC
Sampson’s statement provides an interesting entry point to examine the extraordinary level of power and influence of Paul Hogan and the ‘shrimp on the barbie’ ad, which was part of the Wonders Down Under campaign in the 1980s. At the time, Hogan was absolutely the right person to be the face of Australia, but can any one character be said to represent the Australia of today? In the City of Sydney alone, the last census survey showed that 49.1% of residents were not even born in Australia. There is no longer such a thing as a ‘typical Australian’; Australia, as with many other developed countries, is far too multicultural and complex to be represented by one person.
Given the change in not only the national landscape but also in today’s media landscape, driven by social media, the power to be the right spokesperson can be in anyone’s hands. Australia has moved from nationalism in the 1980s to globalisation today, from a single narrative to a multitude of interpretations. What was once Paul Hogan speaking through a one-dimensional media channel inviting Americans to come down to Australia for a holiday is now a three dimensional narrative that takes place through social media, a medium in which the audience not only listens, but engages back. Social media creates a conversation: a dialogic, rather than monologic, narrative. This narrative is now what people listen to and pay attention to when making a travel decision.
Today the communication that a national tourism body such as TA produces is merely a drop in the ocean of noise created by an engaged audience of millions online and on social media. However, each day TA receives over 1,200 photos through Instagram and Facebook from Australians and travelers, as well as the tourism industry, all of whom want to co-create a vision of Australia as a holiday destination. This is active participation is flipping not only destination marketing on its head but all of advertising across any category.
Historically, those who controlled the media controlled the message; if you’re the only one with a printing press, you control what people read. The same is true with radio, and TV. In the 80s, it was relatively easy to influence people with advertising because people didn’t have many channels to be influenced by, yet alone participate in. But what happens when anyone can have an audience? When everyone has a printing press, the ones with the best ideas are the ones people listen to. Influence can no longer be owned, it must be earned (Barry, 2015).
For an organisation like TA, the challenge is no longer just about creating advertising that engages the audience as Hogan’s ad did back in the 1980s, but how you lead an entire audience, industry, and residents of a country to work together in a coordinated narrative and to be spokespeople in their own right. These efforts might be small, but aggregated together they allow TA to tap into an external force that is much more powerful and scalable than what was done in the 1980s.
This investigation identifies seven ‘pillars’ upon which we can remix the winning formula of the Wonders Down Under campaign into social media.
Trust — from the government, the industry, the public, and our followers and viewers on social media platforms. The goal is to get people to work with the organisation to create a unified voice.
Authenticity — by creating a brand story that is accepted by its audience and by the residents of a country, you can create an ecosystem of endless true brand stories.
Letting the outside in — Social media allows TA to keep the risk away and to co-develop the creativity with its audience, and for the best to be brought in and built upon.
Move people to the next step — Hogan moved his viewers to the next step by asking them to call the toll-free number. Today, every story should also lead someone along the path to purchase. By creating a flow of interested consumers TA can continue to deliver value to the industry it represents.
Replicable & scalable — campaigns come and go, but platforms are built to generate exponential value over time. By creating platforms that others can build on, TA can continue to multiply its marketing results.
Value exchange — Hogan’s involvement provided a platform for Crocodile Dundee. Both the movies and ads provided value back to the industry for many years. By creating platforms where value is exchanged, TA can continue to expand its reach and engagement.
Leadership through soft power — Hogan’s charisma was a major asset to Australia’s image overseas in the 1980s. The biggest benefit of the Hogan campaign was the awareness it brought to the importance of tourism in Australia.
Paul Hogan — or ‘Hoges’ as he was often called — was born in Lightning Ridge, New South Wales. Early in his childhood, his family moved to Granville, a lower-middle-class Sydney suburb, where he grew up, became bored with school, and quit at 15. While working at the local swimming pool, he met his future wife, Noelene. They married when he was just 19 and she was 18 (Rensin, 1988). Four years and three children later, Hogan had become something of a pub-crawling lout. To support his family, which eventually included five children, he worked at odd jobs (Rensin, 1988). On roughly his 25th job since leaving school, Hogan became a rigger (construction worker) on the Sydney Harbour Bridge (Oram, 1987). What followed next is the incredible story of how Hogan went from working on the bridge to selling it — and the entire country. (Jacobson and Murphy, 2014).
2.01 Paul Hogan and New Faces: the rigger who got into show business for a laugh — 1971
I thought [New Faces] was pretty cruel. I didn’t like it. It’s one-sided. It’s like watching the Christians being fed to the lions. Just once, I’d like to see one of the Christians jump up and bite the nuts off the lions.
— Paul Hogan. Hoges Live, Melbourne 2015
The bridge is where it all started for Hogan — where he learned and honed his presenting skills and started on his show business career in the early 1970s, entertaining his mates high above Sydney while they took a smoke break (ATC, 2001). His first appearance on television came in 1971 on New Faces, a high ranking talent show in Australia. The popularity of the show was based on the cruel comments the judges would make to the contestants, sometimes ridiculing them to the point of tears. The humiliation both repulsed and attracted viewers and made the show one of the most discussed of the early 70s (Oram, 1987).
Hogan’s appearance on the show came as a result of a joke between Hogan and his co-workers. During their morning tea break, the riggers would discuss the previous night’s performances. Hogan wrote to the program claiming that he was a knife-throwing tap-dancer and was accepted ahead of others (ATC files). When his turn came to perform, he instead stood on stage and methodically insulted the judges. His performance was a hit.
Hogan’s fate would quickly change after thousands of viewers rang up the show and said, ‘the knife-thrower should’ve won. The tap dancing knife-thrower is the best thing on there’ (Hogan, 2015).
Unbeknownst to Hogan, who had gone back to work on the bridge, the Australian public had begun to shape his future as the man who represented his audience and, eventually, the country. His 10 years of working as a rigger were about to end.
2.02 ‘Hoges’: The pub philosopher — 1971
Every time this guy’s on, the switchboard lights up and every time we say he’s going to be on the show the ratings go up.
— John Cornell, Melbourne producer of A Current Affair
Television host Mike Willesee on the newly launched program A Current Affair wanted to interview Hogan on the bridge after his appearance on New Faces (Rensin, 1988). He was looking for a man on the street, a working man, who would give his opinion about particular items that turned up in the news. He had tried other actors, but it hadn’t worked. With Hogan, once the camera crew arrived, he didn’t hold back his opinions. The segment was a hit. Hogan was hired to provide 1–3 minute segments of comic commentary on the show.
Surveys showed that women liked Hogan because of his weather-beaten good looks, fair hair and blue eyes. Men liked him because he seemed the sort of good fellow with whom they would like to share a drink after work or a keg in the backyard. The key to his appeal was that he was just like the audience he was speaking to. Of course, this was not only Paul Hogan the rigger speaking. This was Hoges, the character Hogan had created, a pub philosopher dressed in clothing of a man doing hard manual work in the heat of a Sydney summer.
His persona was infused with abundant authenticity, since everything he said and did was ultimately grounded in his own life experience.
While working on A Current Affair, Hogan met John Cornell, the show’s producer. Their partnership lasted decades — wherever Hogan’s career took him, Cornell was at his side, as his ‘manager, producer, director, sub-editor, co-writer, and cattle prod,’ as Hogan (2015) put it.
2.03 Winfield Cigarettes: Hogan the ‘suave, sophisticated man about town.’ — 1972
Let ‘er rip, Boris
— Paul Hogan
In the middle of 1972, the tobacco company Rothman’s of Pall Mall decided to launch Winfield, a new brand of cigarette. They were looking for an acceptable Australian to sell the product when their eyes fell on Hogan. After long negotiations with Hogan and Cornell, Hogan appeared in his first ad, where he was shown in a dinner suit conducting the 50-piece Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Hogan was portrayed as a ‘suave, sophisticated man about town’ totally in control of his situation, but it was clearly done as a parody in a style that Hogan had become known for. Hogan himself had suggested changes to the script because, as he pointed out, he knew Australians as well, if not better, than most (Oram, 1987). The advertising industry could only concede that it was the most successful campaign ever in Australia — the sales of Winfield cigarettes skyrocketed from nowhere to a good share of the market (Crawford, 2010) — and Hogan’s celebrity status across the nation soared.
There were several reasons for Hogan appeal, not the least of which was his commercial virginity — that is, he had never appeared in a television ad before, or in any other advertisement, for that matter. The ads were written to show Hogan performing a gentle satire on the Australian character. Historian Robert Crawford (2008) suggests that the key to Hogan’s appeal lay in his distinctive wit and his ability to use it to make audiences feel better about themselves and, indeed, the advertised product. His wide Australian accent served to reinforce the relationship between Hogan and the viewers watching from their suburban homes.
2.04 The Paul Hogan Show: light-hearted but laddish ocker humour 1973–1984
He kind of told Australians who we are. He showed Australians who we are when we’re at our best and when we’re at our most lovable, so in a weird way, he’s kind of defined the Australian character.
— Adam Hills, Comedian
In 1973, The Paul Hogan Show went to air. The skits, with their recurring characters (played by Hogan) and lighthearted humour, were thoroughly Australian — including the accent. Hogan says that until he came on the scene, Australians were often embarrassed by the way they talked, and everyone on TV did their best to speak in anything except a true native accent because it was considered low-class. Hogan says part of what he did was ‘talking like the guys down at the pub. Like an Australian. Simple — but believe it or not, everyone thought it was bloody amazing’ (Oram, 1987). The Paul Hogan Show became a smash hit in Australia and was syndicated in 40 other countries. Hogan became Australia’s biggest and highest paid star.
As pointed out by Crawford, Hogan gave his viewers a sort of confidence; this was part of his charisma that people connected with so well. He may not have been an educated man, but he was very clever and very good at reading people and reading situations (Morris, 2015) — a skill that came to define him as a performer throughout his career.
2.05 Fosters: Hogan the real spokesperson 1982–84
I know I can sell beer. People at home know I drink beer, they can smell it, they know I like it and they say,
‘He’s a beer drinker and he likes it, so I’ll try it.
— Paul Hogan
To sell Fosters, the company cast Hogan as an Australian abroad often bemused by the activity around him. This again proved that Hogan could play various roles not that far off from who he really was. The Hoges persona that had been used to such great effect for Winfield was now being used by a British agency to woo the British consumer (Crawford, 2010). The advertisements were all good-natured jibes at aspects of British society; small reminders that Britain and Australia, although having much in common, were a world apart (Oram, 1987).
Hogan promoted products that people would believe he himself would use. As Hogan said,
‘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).
The Australian image — led by Hogan — that took the world by storm in the 1980s represents a seminal moment in Australian cultural history. His major credential was just being an ordinary Australian. Hogan said,
‘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.’
His next role catapulted Australia’s image into American popular culture and helped create one of the biggest booms in the Australian tourism industry (Oram, 1987).
2.06 Hogan’s pitch to cabinet: ‘you give Brownie the money’ — 1983
Toohey’s was spending 19 million just selling beer in Sydney.
I had 9 million dollars to sell Australia to the world.
— John Brown, Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism 1983–1987
In 1983, the Labor Party set a policy objective to double the number of visitors to Australia over the next five years. At the time, tourism contributed to 6% of the nation’s GDP, was responsible for 375,000 jobs, and was seen as the best sunrise industry in Australia. John Brown, the new Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism along with John Rowe, the ATC’s Managing Director wanted to get Hogan on board to sell Australia as a holiday destination. Brown had a connection with Rothman’s of Pall Mall and with Alan ‘Jo’ Johnston, who had written over 15 of the Winfield ads with Hogan (Brown and Johnston, 2015), and who later formed half of the Mojo Agency partnership (along with Alan ‘Mo’ Morris). Brown asked if he could reach out to Hogan in London where he was filming episodes of The Paul Hogan Show (Brown, 2015). Hogan and Johnston made a 20-minute film clip which Brown took to the expenditures committee. It worked, and Brown walked out with $20 million to sell Australian tourism, double what was previously budgeted.
The choice wasn’t without its fair share of criticism. John King (2015), the ATC’s Director of Marketing Services at the time, told me during our interview that when it was announced that Hogan would be the new spokesperson for Australia;
‘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’.
Hogan’s critics may have failed to see him as the great communicator that he was. To the American target market, Hoges was still virtually unknown. With the funding approved Hogan and the Mojo agency got to work.
2.07 Mojo: the agency that spoke the language of the people
We’re best at selling stuff that appeals to us. We smoke, we drink and we love Australia, so we’re good at selling those products.
— Alan Morris, Mojo
Allan Johnston and Alan Morris both felt that the key to advertising Australian products was to reinforce the national pride that ran deeply, but often dormant in the veins of many Australians (Jarratt, 1986). In the days before strategic planning, Mo and Jo tapped into the essence of the people (Rudder, 2011). Mojo was gently massaging the national ego, and it was phenomenally successful (Jarratt, 1986). In an industry and a period that was notorious for long lunches and broad egos, the irreverent style of Mo and Jo made them and their style of advertising shorthand for Australian popular culture. It was why they got along so well with Paul Hogan.
2.08 The Wonders Down Under campaign — come on, come and say g’day — 1984
To be number one in the US is a bit special because there’s about 100 tourism campaigns over there. And all the ads have got waterfalls and beaches. Even Ethiopia can look good. — Paul Hogan
Hogan’s unique ocker style was first introduced in the US during the National Football Conference Championship game in January 1984. Corbett (2015) notes that in the US, ‘there was nothing iconic or celebrity status about him. The viewers who were watching the initial ads were not looking at anything other than this nice Australian who was talking to them.’ Undoubtedly his onscreen charisma contributed a lot to the success of that ad, but it wasn’t a celebrity ad. Once Crocodile Dundee came out he became well known in the US and then he became a celebrity. But the initial key, according to Morris, was in Hogan’s ‘incredible charisma’, the laid back style of the ads and the campaign’s complete contrast to the US style of ‘shouting, shrieking hard sell’ (Baxter, 1987).
Along with a sophisticated radio and print campaign, the ATC created five additional TV ads for the US market.
After selling Australia to the Americans, the government considered it a good idea to sell Australia to Australians.
The idea was that if Australians stayed at home for their holidays, it would not only mean less money going out of the country, but more jobs within the country. In the domestic ad, Hogan was pictured lying beside a swimming pool at a resort on Australia’s tropical Barrier Reef. ‘G’day,’ he said. ‘You might reckon I’m just lyin’ around taking it easy. But right now I’m flat out workin’ for me country’ (Oram, 1987).
2.09 The results — success has many fathers, failure is an orphan
The campaign is being hailed by the ad gurus of Madison Avenue as the most successful travel promotion ever, anywhere.
George Negus (60 Minutes, 1984)
Maybe that’s the best thing about Paul Hogan; not that he’s so bloody smart, which he is, or that he’s turned himself into such a bloody success, which he has, but that he’s so bloody ordinary. Like the rest of us.
— Sydney Morning Herald
Proving the effectiveness of the ad was crucial for Rowe. At that time, having the call to action of a 1–800 number wasn’t traditionally being done by National Tourism Organisations, but in this case it was. This was one of the brilliant aspects of this campaign and why is was so innovative at the time. Every time the ad ran, the ATC could expect a predictable level of calls. It was genius.
According to Bill Baker, none of the other five international ads that Hogan had shot were performing as well as the first. ‘Whenever we would put ‘the shrimp on the barbie’ ad on — bang it would go up again. We were running them through to 1989. Six years later. Imagine running an ad six years later and still pulling numbers.’
Understaffed, underfunded and oversold, the American campaign caught the Australian Tourist Commission [ATC] by surprise. This was on a totally new scale for the ATC , as were the flow-on effects. The enormous number of enquiries put unprecedented pressure on the ATC and the visa-issuing authorities. The ATC could not afford to follow up all enquiries with the Destination Australia guides (Robinson, 2000). This success was well beyond the hopes of the Australian government.
There were many reasons for the success though, as John Brown explained:
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.
Another key reason for the success of the campaign was Hogan’s ocker style had never been seen before on American TV. The style of the ad was completely new. King told me ‘some of the channels in the US were running it free of charge to the ATC because the public were demanding to see this ad. It was just absolute cut-through advertising. It was so different to anything.’ The ads were so effective that some Californian television stations ran them for three weeks without charge because they attracted other advertisements on the same air time (Oram, 1987). Baker told me, ‘I remember running it at trade events made up of primarily middle aged American women, and they would clap at the end.’ US tourists coming to Australia increased by 22.8% in 1985, and, in the first half of 1986, the number of Americans obtaining entry visas increased a further 20.3% (AdNews, 1987).
In 1986 the advertisements won first prize in the travel and tourism category of the prestigious US Effie Awards. It was reported that, in 25 years of advertising, it represented the first time a campaign won as many awards as the ATC in 1985 (Ilic, 1986).The 13 major awards won (including three CLIO awards) attest to the quality of the campaign, while the enormous response by consumers for further information, coupled with increased bookings and intention to travel, are evidence of its successful impact (1984–85 ATC annual report).
2.10 What Hoges got out of it — The priceless and non-committal deed
What am I worth? Oh, I don’t know.
I can’t put a price on it.
– Paul Hogan, Playboy
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this story is that Hogan refused payment for the work on the ads. Many efforts were made to get Hogan to sign a contract, even for a dollar. But he wouldn’t do it.
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)
I asked Morris (2015) if he thought the campaign would have been as successful if there had been a more rigid agreement in place. He responded, ‘No, because in those days, we just did the video for [the Prime Minister] and we didn’t give a bugger about the ATC because they were simply a bunch of bureaucrats.’ By not taking money for his services, Hogan could keep the risk and creativity away from the government and ATC. No one could tell Hogan what to do.
While Hogan wouldn’t take payment for his services, there was a clear value exchange in place. Hogan along with Mojo got creative freedom to make the ads they wanted to make with very little interference from the ATC or the government, and the ads later acted as a platform upon which Hogan could launch Crocodile Dundee in the US.
2.11 Crocodile Dundee: the real payout for Hoges
‘It worked, luckily’ — John Rowe
ATC MD 1984–1989
Hogan and his partner Cornell now felt he could tackle a movie. For years he had received movie scripts but had turned them down for various reasons. Hogan went on to write, produce, and star in Crocodile Dundee two years after the ‘shrimp on the barbie’ ad first went to air.
Where did the idea come from? According to Hogan:
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.
So again, we have this character created by Hogan who is based loosely on his own experience. Perhaps one of the reasons that Dundee came off as authentic was because Hogan created and designed this character from his own experience.
The Wonders Down Under campaign gave Paul Hogan a launching pad for Crocodile Dundee I and II, which in turn were great for tourism promotion (Brown, 1990). In the end it was a win-win for both Hogan and Australian tourism; Australia got a hit movie and a powerful spokesperson, and Hogan launched himself as an international movie star.
Of course not everyone was pleased with Hogan’s portrayal of Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee. Some felt that the movie would set Australia’s image abroad back about 20 years while making its millions. In a May 1986 feature in The Age, Hogan responds to his critics:
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)
Hogan went on to co-host the 1987 Academy Awards with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn, but, surprisingly, found himself nominated for Best Original Screenplay. For four minutes he was in front of the biggest audience of his life. He kept performers amused, seemingly, with the casualness of a bloke spinning a yarn at the pub. And that had been the secret of his success since leaving the Harbour Bridge. He had never really changed. There was no need for change because the formula, if such it could be called, still had national and international appeal.
2.12 The complicated breakup: The shrimp gets burnt to a crisp — 1989
To have all the serious and subtle things about Australia represented as ‘putting shrimp on the barbecue’ — as important as that may be to those who want fun in the sun and all that — is, I think, to undersell us all.
— Prime Minister Paul Keating, 1991–1996
By 1990 Hogan was in Hollywood working on a third movie, and reckoned he had ‘done his bit’ by appearing for free in six TV ads since 1984 (Reiss, 1990). When asked by Playboy if he would continue to do the ads, Hogan said ‘No. I’ve had success at it, but I don’t want to go down as a great salesman’ (Rensin, 1988).
In interview, Rowe (2015) said to me
‘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.’
In a 1990 open letter to the ATC in the Australian Financial Review, Paul Hogan and John Cornell pleaded that the ads be taken off the air. Hogan and Cornell wrote:
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.
It is most likely that Hogan and Cornell were referring to the original ‘shrimp on the barbie’ ad, which according to Baker, Corbett, Rowe and King was still pulling in. ‘Take it off now you nitwits!’ the letter read.
Historian Robert Crawford says that to expect Australia to resume its 15 minutes of fame is as reasonable as expecting a fourth installment of the Crocodile Dundee films to be the next box office smash. ‘Times had changed; audiences have moved on.’ Perhaps the most perceptive comment on this situation was uttered by the Undersecretary for International Protocol character in the ‘Bart vs. Australia’ episode of television cartoon sitcom The Simpsons:
In an ABC radio interview, Hogan said, ‘I was flavour of the year for a couple of years and then like everyone else I faded into obscurity. I didn’t care, I loved it’. (O’Shaughnessy, 2013). Morris (2015) recounts the events.
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.’
I took on Morris’ challenge to see if the ad could be as powerful today as it was 30 years ago. While I didn’t have the means to showcase it on TV, the next best thing was to feature the famous ad on TA’s Facebook page.
The video post generated an incredible response; 4.5m views, 209k likes and 47k shares in just 24 hours.
The post also generated over 47k comments, such as ‘we saw a Paul Hogan ad one winter night. One cold, snowy, blowy, miserable winter night, and that convinced us to make Australia our next travel destination. Loved it, loved the people, would go back in a heartbeat’, ‘Yes, we were lured by this ad, too, and went in ‘86. Great trip!’ and ‘Still one of the best commercials for Australia. Even if it is 30yrs old now.’
It cannot be denied that the Wonders Down Under campaign featuring Paul Hogan as Australia’s spokesperson helped set off what has been called the ‘big bang’ in the history of Australian tourism (Tregaskis, 1998). And, although it may have seemed very counter-intuitive to look for a model that could be applied to social media by ‘looking back’, the campaign did generate new and original ideas which can be sampled into an already successful social media strategy.
Remixing the ‘shrimp on the barbie’ by tapping into the collective genius of millions
I sometimes think there are 22.9 million people who think they could do my job better. Some of them are probably right. — Nick Baker, Chief Marketing Officer, Tourism Australia, 2007–2015
The media landscape today is far more complex than when Paul Hogan ‘slipped another shrimp on the barbie’. While the campaign was aimed primarily for the US market, in today’s world, TA has a global mandate with global complexities.
According to Barnes (2008), the story of branding by organisations like TA is one of power, seduction, and social engineering. This, she says, is due to three factors:
The organisation has the power to define an official version of the Australian identity, the mandate to define in order to woo tourists to Australia and away from other destinations; and the opportunity to influence Australian attitudes, behavior, cultural production and self perception.
But with the onset of social media, there has been a significant decrease in the power of institutions accompanied by a significant increase in the power of individuals. During the Hogan campaign, the media channels were all one-way. Today, the audience not only consumes, but co-created the content. This User-Generated Content (UGC) is transforming destination marketing. It would simply not have been possible even five years ago for organisations like TA to receive over 1,200 photos and videos per day from an audience which want to participate in selling Australia. In the article ‘‘How GoPro is transforming advertising as we know it’ featured in Fast Company the author proclaims that
User-generated content is the next marketing and advertising frontier for brands. Its wide acceptance is due to the fact that it is both powerful and affordable. But most of all, it is relatable in a way that polished, directed, scripted advertising is not (Bobowski, 2014).
Creativity has shifted from a handful of players (Mojo, Hogan) in the 80s to the much more complex and heterogeneous landscape of today. There is a greater need for balance from communication co-created from the inside (DMOs, creative agencies, etc) with that created outside (consumers, industry operators, creators of UGC). What follows is an assessment of how the seven pillars of the Wonders Down Under campaign can be applied to TA’s current social media efforts.
3.01 Trust: your license to operate and your ability to resonate
You’re in a much more high-profile situation. In my day, I had trouble getting in one paragraph on page 45.
Now, you get on page 3 if you’re not careful
— John Rowe, MD ATC ’82–89
In my interviews, and through exploring TA’s history, I found that the organisation had created its most creative and groundbreaking work when two forms of trust were at their peak. The first was trust from its stakeholders (government, industry, and the public). The second type is trust from the audience receiving the message. Believability was, and still is, the key in advertising effectiveness (Nielson, 2013).
The public, for the most part, trusted Paul Hogan to be its spokesperson. Not only because he represented the ‘quintessential’ Australian (Negus, 2015), but because he had played many roles as a spokesperson before. The campaign came together because of Hogan’s trust in Mojo, his work with Jo on the Winfield cigarette ads, and because of Brown’s trust with John Rowe, who had spent months pre-selling the idea to Brown before he became the Minister for Tourism.
Perhaps the best (or worst?) example of when the organisation’s trust was tested was with the ‘So where the bloody hell are you?’ campaign of 2006.
The campaign received extensive press coverage because of the final line. In my interviews the theme of trust often came up unprompted when mentioning this campaign. One current staff member currently at TA who had worked at the organisation during this period told me: ‘There were a lot of internal issues about how it was rolled out, how it was launched, how staff were engaged. It was a very traumatic time for the organisation. There was no culture of trust… It was a really bad time.’
In a Sydney Morning Herald article, Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called the campaign a ‘rolled gold disaster’ (AAP, 2015). This was detrimental to the morale within the organisation and to public trust. For many years, the media and the public focused on the term ‘bloody hell’ which represented a very small part of the campaign. Nick Baker (2015), the Chief Marketing Officer who came onboard after the controversial campaign, said, ‘it was very difficult for the organisation [after the ‘bloody hell’ campaign]. It was about redefining the organisation, resetting its balance with its board and its stakeholders and trying to forge a path forward’ (Herbison, 2015).
However, a major opportunity for the organisation to rebuild its reputation happened when it pulled off one of its biggest coups: securing a contract with Oprah Winfrey to take 300 of her ‘Ultimate Australian Adventure’ viewers on vacation to Australia as part of her final season. According to my colleague Emma Sturgiss, (2015) who worked closely on the campaign, ‘A major benefit of getting Oprah to Australia was being able to demonstrate to the government and to the Australian public that we were experts at what we do and that we could generate these massive opportunities to put Australia on a global scale… it put us back in a position where people wanted to work with us again’. Lisa Ronson, TA’s current Chief Marketing Officer, said ‘people trust us now because of what Andrew [McEvoy] and Nick [Baker] did. Actually, they built the trust back up, and that is so much harder.’
Hogan worked because Australians trusted that he spoke for them. There was also an unprecedented level of alignment between the government and the creatives [Mojo and Hogan] who had the freedom to get the job done. A similar trust needs to be built on social media over time. For a brand, absolutely every day is earned on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
One of the mistakes most social media managers and agencies make is that they often work in a silo, not taking key stakeholders along on the journey. In an attempt to cause some controlled controversy, the social media team at TA posted a picture of a censored kangaroo to its Facebook page.
The kangaroo episode was more of a bit of fun than a scandal, and didn’t really result in a loss of trust. The stunt was only possible because of the internal and external alignment that existed among all involved. The bigger the trust, the better the work.
Social media has added another layer of complexity and risk for destination marketers; the need to constantly publish content, thus increasing the likelihood of error.
By creating a framework where the audience and stakeholders co-create messages, you increase the level of trust and decrease the chances of getting it wrong.
3.02 Authenticity: not just put on for show
You look at that ad and it’s not you need a holiday; it’s I need a bit of Australia. I need a bit of that. I need a bit of that life.
— Dan Gregory, Gruen Transfer
We couldn’t tell [Hogan] what to do. He would read a script and if he didn’t want to do, he didn’t do it.
— Alan ‘Jo’ Johnston
Social media can only highlight the truth. In 1984, the same year the ‘shrimp on the barbie’ ad went to air, Dr Robert Caldini published the bestselling book Influence. ‘Social proof’, one of Caldini’s six key principles to get others to say ‘yes’ was similarity — people are more inclined to follow the lead of people similar to them. This is why social media today could be a powerful way to sell a destination to ordinary viewers (who compose the largest potential market); it demonstrates that other ‘ordinary’ people like them are experiencing, and enjoying the product.
Authenticity is what made the Hogan ads both believable and endearing. By amplifying the truth through social media, we can connect, influence, and convert on a scale much larger than the Wonders Down Under campaign. While we may tell one narrative of the story, we have no control over warnings or other messages that any user might want to post in the comments. This plays to the authenticity of the message which is being received by the audience.
Nobody tells a story about a destination more effectively and more authentically than the people who live there and who experience it. That is the heart of TA’s social media strategy (Sullivan, 2015) and the rationale behind TA’s current campaign There’s Nothing Like Australia, which was launched in 2010. Andrew McEvoy, TA’s MD from 2011 to 2015 told me, ‘It was more than just a tagline — it was a strategy in a line… our big thing was to let other people tell the story.’
Hogan’s early success was at least, in part, because he sounded like someone you would know. He very much spoke a language that people could relate to. This approach has been carried through TA’s social media profiles. In a 2014 report Skift.com (a popular travel industry publication) looked at the most followed brands and influencers on Instagram in the travel category. Out of the 200 most liked and commented photos from this group, 197 came from the @Australia account. This account continues to outperform much better funded brands because it resonates with its audience by speaking to them in their own language.
Authenticity is increased when we shift from just telling stories to giving a story to tell. Posts on TA’s social profiles are designed not only to be consumed, but to be shared by the person receiving the message. A post that is shared not only comes from a real person, but carries the endorsement of someone who is very likely already familiar with Australia.
The aim of not just telling stories, but giving a story to tell is to get others to build on your brand narrative and to make it better.
Just as Hogan was telling a story on behalf of the ATC and the Australian tourism industry, we can allow our current audience (those who love and know the brand) to take our brand stories and to build on top of them in their own authentic way.
Another aspect that made the Hogan ads successful, particularly before Crocodile Dundee, is that they were accepted by Australians. Of course, the ad had its fair share of critics, but the success helped sell the ideas back home. Rowe said, ‘I don’t call it a fluke, but I think it was an ad that just clicked, in the right atmosphere in relation to Australians and Americans’.
As Paul Hogan said to the reporter George Negus on 60 Minutes:
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).
Truth was such a critical characteristic of the success of Paul Hogan as a spokesperson. As legendary ad man William Bernbach said ‘The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.’ Nowhere more so than in social media.
3.03 Letting the outside in: the mojo of millions
Jesse: We get over 1,200 photos sent to us to use every day
John Rowe: Ya well you can thank Hogan for that. When I did it we had nothing coming to us.
Michael Arrington, founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a blog covering Silicon Valley technology, wrote: ‘When there are too many cooks in the kitchen all you get is a mess. And when too many people have product input, you’ve got lots of features but no soul.’ The challenge that also exists when attempting to present an entire country through a television ad is that there are simply too many aspects of the story to represent accurately or, in many cases, fairly to all the stakeholders involved. As Todd Sampson on the Gruen Transfer said,
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.
What was done for the Wonders Down Under ads and Crocodile Dundee movies was to ‘control of the product.’ This was Cornell’s primary concern when it came to the film. Rather than dilute the concept by having many hands stir the pot, Cornell went to great lengths to retain control (O’Toole, 1986). That control is what makes UGC so powerful. It is created by individuals or small groups of individuals who have deep insights into the story they are trying to tell, without interference from marketers.
When reading the historical interviews with Mo, Jo and Hogan, I couldn’t help but think there would be absolutely no way that these characters would be able to operate now as they did in the 1980s. The level of scrutiny on government organisations such as TA is simply too high today, yet the expectations of the consumers whom the organisation is trying to reach and engage with are increasing every day. This increase is largely due to UGC created by other people just like them. Those characters like Hogan, Mo and Jo still exist today, and unlike the 80s, they have a microphone also.
One of the benefits that social media gives us is that it allows us to not only create a marketplace of ideas outside of the organisation, but it also enables us to protect ideas that are not fully baked. Once ideas are proven to show potential, we can then allocate resources to amplify them. The aim is to allow for risk and creativity to happen outside of the organisation (instead of diluted by committees internally), so that the best ideas can be brought in and built upon, instead of starting from scratch. By taking something that already exists (such as UGC) you are working from a story that is true instead of one which is manufactured or over-engineered.
By tapping into the collective genius through UGC, we are, in a sense, recreating the same effect that Hogan had when he made suggestions to the scripts he was asked to read.
TA’s strategy relies heavily on photos. This is mainly because we receive a great many photos, which tend to lend themselves to easy editing and reposting. As an experiment, I wanted to find out how we could use the same formula for videos.
I joined Wild Oceans Tasmania, an experience for eight persons to swim with wild fur seals in the Tasman national Park. I used my GoPro and Canon 5D Mark III, equipment that a professional or an amateur might have. I took 28 minutes of footage and narrowed it down to the best 10 minutes. I then sent it to a freelance video editor on Monday morning who edited the video into a 1:42 minute feature that we could use for TA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. The video was completed within 48 hours, including both edits.
After featuring on Facebook the results were 606,523 views, 46,476 likes, 4,404 comments, 8,788 shares, 4,891 clicks through to the Wild Oceans Tasmania website. Results were organic and no budget was used to promote the video. The experiment was also picked up by The Mercury, Tasmania’s state newspaper. This experiment helped show our stakeholders how a new format of UGC can be brought back into the business in a replicable and scalable way. Since then, we’ve replicated the experience several times since and the results keep getting better.
In a Facebook survey we conducted, 82.9% of our domestic Facebook fans felt that their photos helped promote Australia. Out of our domestic fans, 31.8% said they had posted their photos onto TA’s Facebook page. Similar results on an Instagram survey showed that 68% of domestic followers thought their photos helped promote travel to Australia. This is an interesting opportunity for the organisation, as a vast majority of the public believes that they can help promote Australia.
This brings us to the issue of immediacy. A strategy that is based on co-creation allows us to move more quickly because we are working from something that already exists.
Tapping into the outside is also about getting the organisation outside of itself, outside of internal politics, outside of what it’s currently doing and using what the audience is already producing. The job of TA as a leader is to create the conditions that allow and encourage all these things to happen again and again (Brandeau et al., 2013).
3.04 Move the people to the next step: call this toll-free number
Who’s gonna buy anything if we don’t tell them what to do.
— John Rowe, ATC MD ‘83–89
While social media doesn’t have the trackability of a 1–800 number on a TV ad, it is it important that we can prove conversion in a way that is visible to our stakeholders. By creating a flow of leads, we can continue to deliver value to the industry and demonstrate that our approach is working. Although social media activity will always be difficult to measure, I suggest the reach / engagement / conversion model to understand our activities:
Reach: How many people did we reach in our key target market?
Engagement: how much did our audience engage with our content?
Conversion: how many shares or click through to Australia or an industry profile did we generate?
While social media will never allow us to have a black and white answer to conversion, knowing the numbers on the above formula allows to us focus on activities where we can demonstrate that we are moving our audience across these three conversion metrics.
The team at TA has created consistency in their features. On Friday, Facebook fans can expect to see the Friday Fan Photos album, which is a collection of 20 of the best photos submitted by fans for the week. Every six hours, followers on the @Australia account can expect to the see a new feature. What this allows the team to do is to plug the many different brand narratives into formats that not only please multiple stakeholders, but also generate predictable results every day.
According to researcher Carolyn Childs (2015), perhaps the biggest benefit of social media is that it ‘widens the top of the funnel, and it helps push more people through the funnel.’
3.05 Replicable & scalable: efforts that get bigger over time
The warm fuzzy feeling you get from success at Cannes is short-lived. — Tham Khai Meng, Ogilvy, Chief Creative Director
The advertising philosophy used to be,
‘repeat, repeat, repeat, and she’ll be sweet, sweet, sweet.’
Which is just in itself really simple and really powerful.
-Rob Belgiovane, Creative Director, BWM
A Current Affair, tribute to Alan Morris
Veteran ad man David Ogilvy would say, ‘You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.’ He was commenting on the habit of brands to constantly change their advertising. In his opinion, if you had a winner then you just had to repeat it. This was the case for the original ‘shrimp on the barbie’: it was shot in 1984 and was still being used up until 1989.
Social media lends itself well to a replicable and scalable approach to spokesmanship. But, instead of having all ‘our eggs in one basket’ with one celebrity such as Hogan, we can create a platform that allows for millions to create hypertargeted and more personalized messages. Campaigns come and go while platforms allow us to build something more influential that gets bigger over time.
So how does a brand continue to build influence? Influence is almost impossible to pin down. Does a destination become popular because of the features on high profile social media accounts, or because of thousands of smaller accounts? The literature on the matter is split, one camp maintain the ‘tipping point theory’ (Gladwell, 2000) which suggests that ‘influentials — a minority of individuals who influence an exceptional number of their peers — are important to the formation of public opinion’ (Watts & Sheridan Dodds, 2007). In the other camp are those who offer an alternative explanation, that ‘large-scale changes in public opinion are not driven by highly influential people who influence everyone else, but, rather, by easily-influenced people, influencing other easily influenced people’ (Watts & Sheridan Dodds, 2007).
An effective social media strategy does just that — builds influence through a sharable platform. In my observations, campaigns that are designed for the long haul are the ones that produce the most tangible, replicable, and scalable results.
3.06 Value exchange: raising everyone’s game
The government wouldn’t have copped a million dollars, but the fee?
What am I worth? Oh, I don’t know. I can’t put a price on it.
- Paul Hogan
The government rarely gets anyone to do anything for free. — John Brown, Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism , 1983–1987
Hogan saying he did it for nothing…. there were some fringe benefits. — John Rowe, ATC MD 1983–1989
By focusing on platforms of value co-creation, instead of one-off campaigns, we can continue to create value for the audience and for the industry in a replicable way. The aim is to use our limited resources to produce incremental results not just through one-way communication and singular brand narrative, but through multi-sided communication and value co-creation from the audience.
The aim of any business is to create value for the customer and to capture value back into the business (Verdin, 2014). In the 80s, Hogan encouraged viewers to call the 1–800 number to receive a 75-page booklet about Australia. This was a form of value exchange; the customer would trade off their details to get information they couldn’t find anywhere else. The challenge in today’s social media landscape is that many, if not most, of the information produced by destination marketers can be found almost anywhere.
For TA’s @Australia Instagram account, the value is not only the engagement that the audience has with the content, and with the traffic that is generated, but also the insights and trust that are generated as a result. The social media team are not just communicating one way, they are receiving real time feedback from thousands across the country who are experiencing the brand.
It’s very common that when someone gets featured on the @Australia account that they share the feature on their own profiles. Just as the ATC provided a platform for Hogan’s PR campaign in the US before Crocodile TA can provide a modern-day platform that allows all of its stakeholders to have more reach and engagement than they can create on their own. This creates not only a replicable and scalable ecosystem of content coming into the TA, but also better content going out to the community. Personally, I have observed the greatest value being provided on our platforms by users connecting directly with other users. The way to outperform any other tourism board globally is not to outspend them, but to co-create value with our industry stakeholders, Australians, the people who travelled here, and our fans and followers of our accounts. The creative challenge is in aligning all the parts together to create the greatest amount of value and a disproportionate share of the conversation about Australia.
3.07 Leadership through soft power: getting people to work with you
I like to think of myself as a peacemaker. Tourism, when you look at it is the reason why there can never be another Pearl Harbor. Because if the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor today, they’d kill about one-and-a-half million Japanese. — Paul Hogan
The best propaganda is not propaganda. — Joseph Nye, Harvard University
Soft power is a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe the ability to attract and co-opt rather than to coerce, use force or money as a means of persuasion. Recently, however, the term has been used to describe how social and public opinion can be changed and influenced through relatively less transparent channels and, also, through the lobbying of powerful political and non-political organisations. In its most simplistic sense, it is a way to get people to come on board.
Hogan’s charisma was a major asset to Australia in the 1980s, and a real contributor to soft power at the time. If a country has a great, positive image, everything is easy and everything is cheap. You get more tourists. You get more investors. You sell your products more expensively. On the other hand, in a country with a very weak or a very negative image, everything is difficult and everything is expensive (Anholt, 2012).
In 1984, there were, on occasions differences between the national imagery produced by the ATC and the Australian reality. The organisation needed to engineer socio-cultural change through the use of soft power. The ATC was concerned about potential hostility towards tourists, and so launched an extensive domestic campaign to ensure Australians lived up to this image they had created of a welcoming and warm society. Hogan told Australians not to ‘make a liar out of him’, to ‘flash their pearly whites’, and to say hello to visitors because tourism meant jobs (Barnes, 2001).
While it’s unlikely that such a campaign would be necessary today, there is an educational role for TA with both the tourism industry and residents. Since the media landscape has changed, residents are more involved as active participants in image development, rather than as passive (and critical) observers. Being involved tends to reduce criticism and to allow suggestions for change to be more readily accepted. When you invite people in, as we have done, then ‘even when people are critical, their criticism is a desire for deeper engagement, a desire to work more closely with TA, not a desire to not work against the organisation’ (Childs, 2015).
A somewhat hidden but important result of the Hogan international and domestic campaign was that it provided a platform to draw the state and industry together into a rapidly growing national marketing team (Rowe, 2015).
In my time with Rowe (2015) he said:
By far, the most important thing that was achieved through the Hogan campaign and everything was the raising of awareness of tourism to the Australian population itself. In Australia, you had to get tourism a higher profile. That was a secondary thing, but that was more important in the long run… The rest was a good PR deal forever in America, and it won all those awards, and it’s always brought reactions. It’s still really helping, but the really important thing for Australia, and what Hogan did for Australia was it raised the awareness in Australia, within Australia, about themselves.
What’s interesting about articles like The Most Popular Tourism Photos on Instagram All Come From Australia (Clampet, 2012), which highlight that TA is a global leader in the tourism space on social media, is that they help build trust for the industry and the country to follow our lead, creating an ongoing partnership based on alignment and trust.
Setting the stage
Success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan
— Tacitus, Agricola 27:1, 98AD
It turns out that Sampson’s challenge from the Gruen Transfer of looking back was incredibly useful to understand our current success with social media at TA. Just as Hogan was good at the seven characteristics listed in Chapter 3, today’s best spokespeople on TA’s social media can also carry Hogan’s skills in their own way.
It is worth reiterating Rowe’s reminder in his 1994 departure letter from the ATC:
There is a natural tendency for Australia’s successful international tourism performance in the 80s to be attributed to Paul Hogan alone, a perception that is just not true. The dedicated efforts of hundreds of Australian tourist industry marketers and ATC’s own staff world-wide provided the foundation for Australia’s maturing industry.
While the Wonders Down Under campaign and the Crocodile Dundee movies starring Paul Hogan contributed to an extraordinary boom in Australia’s tourism story it wasn’t just because of Hogan. As I’ve interviewed many of the main players behind the scenes I realised there was an incredible creative leadership angle at play. Aligning an entire industry and earning the trust from Australians is perhaps the most amazing achievement of this campaign, without it none of it would of been possible. While the gaze of history often falls heavily upon heroic and charismatic individuals, the foundations for decades of success were also laid by the countless unheralded contributions of thousands of people working diligently behind the scenes.
As comedian Clayton Jacobson said:
‘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.’
In a media landscape such as social media where anyone can have a voice, if your audience is the hero of your story, they will carry your brand and take it places much further than you ever could on your own.
To this day TA are still one of the very few destination marketers that don’t have our logo anywhere on our social media profile. That’s because our profiles are not about us, they are about our industry and the fans who submit the content that powers our efforts. The more we make our fans, Australia, and an entire industry the heroes, the further they help carry our brand story… what Hogan did in the 1980s, we can now do on a scale never before imaginable.
To borrow a phrase from the book Collective Genius, the leader’s job in today’s complex landscape is to set the stage, not just perform on it.
Executive MBA program — Berlin School of Creative Leadership