Friday, April 02, 2010

Accidental Tourism


What's up cock? by Pants


I used to wonder why I'm so bad at self-promotion. Now I know. I'm Australian. We suck at it. Just have a look at Tourism Australia's new campaign to attract visitors. It involves a national rally to contribute our best holiday snaps to the cause of luring visitors to our shores.

This is like buying a pedigree dog and then calling a neighbourhood meeting and getting all the attendees to bark. So what exactly is the ad agency being paid for then? It makes my stammering attempts to market my skills and experience in a coherent fashion to bottle-bottom bespectacled, bowling ball-headed, petty bureaucrats in Homer Simpson ties seem like a Nobel lecture.

Why does the advancing of Australia fair always go so wrong? I think of the desperate 'where the bloody hell are you?' campaign of a few years ago and Paul Hogan's 'another shrimp on the barbie' abomination and an image of the uncoolest kid in school recruiting for a birthday bash at World of Tinned Goods bursts into mind like the zit that slayed Clearasil.

Australia's promotional efforts seem entirely geared towards massaging the self-esteem of its citizens. If you are a potential tourist wanting to know something of the country, you will find no information at all on the official tourist website that will help you. All you will find are reports about the organisation's corporate structure and accountability mechanisms and entreaties to Australians to participate in this current campaign to grab your attention. It would be like walking into a gelati bar and finding the metal containers in all the fridges filled with staff timesheets and payroll coupons and post-it notes with phone numbers on them instead of Zuppa Inglese, Stracciatella and Frutti di Bosco.

By contrast, Visit Britain presumes that you have already decided to go there and devotes its site to helping you buy tickets, plan your journey and save money. It exudes the kind of confidence you want in a country you're about to entrust with your precious holiday leave. The last thing you need is to spend twenty-four hours method-acting the life of a battery hen only to end up having to navigate your way through a prickly relationship with a country in the throes of severe personality disorder. The impression Tourism Australia projects is one of a nation that is allergic to its own skin.

Now let's look at the root claim of Tourism Australia's current campaign, 'There's nothing like Australia'. For a start the underlining is wrong, wrong, wrong. No properly constructed simple sentence should ever need its gist reinforcing. The structure is rubbish and so is the premise. Australia is unique but it is not unique in its being unique, if you catch my wave. Every country has natural wonders and cultural peculiarities that are worth experiencing otherwise we wouldn't bother to go anywhere. We'd all be saying, 'why would I go to India when I can pop down to the Larrikin's End Taj Mahal any time I feel like it?'

It seems to me that you cannot cut your cloth for a jacket and then expect to be able to make trousers, unless your name is Jean Paul Gaultier. If you are a humble island nation with a perceived high dependency on tourism and a long-haul potential clientele you need to be fairly assured about what it is you are offering. Tourists come to Australia for scenery and sunshine. Surely it's a question of keeping the message plain and confident.

This airing of emotional insecurity is embarrassing for us and must be confusing for those who come looking for information. It would seem that our leaders are not reading from the same edition of The Lonely Planet as the rest of us. They're like the parents who turn up at your graduation ceremony wearing their gardening clothes and clutching a Polaroid camera. What choice have you but to pretend they're nothing to do with you?

A rival site to Tourism Australia's has been set up to demonstrate to our global cousins that not all of us are lost somewhere in the vicinity of our own recta. It's proved so popular that Tourism Australia is huffing and puffing about suing. It might be better advised to adopt some of the suggestions put forward as they are funny and true and this is a big improvement on zero design attributes.

Tourism Australia is not the only entity at the augustine end of the power structure to exude humourlessness when it comes to the corporate image. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd morphed into the Face of Po when Robin Williams revealed 'Australians are just English rednecks' in a typically tired monologue on the David Letterman Show. If there'd been anyone with any sense nearby, they might have said, 'Calm down Kev, it's only Robin Williams,' but that would be like expecting banking executives to entertain a bonus freeze. In the way that international diplomacy has of escalating a slip into an avalanche in a matter of sound bites, insult inspired knee-jerk as Rudd incongruously aimed his 'right back at ya' at the State of Alabama, incurring the ire of its good citizens. One hurt soul even said he was going straight to the zoo to punch a kangaroo in protest. Thoroughly un-redneck behaviour all round, I think you'll agree.

And finally the New York Times weighed in with this piece yesterday highlighting the cruel exhibition of a caged and very stressed kangaroo in a Beverly Hills street by Tourism Australia. It was posted on April Fools Day but turned out not to be a hoax. It's getting so you just can't tell truth from bollocks these days. Oh well, we can always blame Skippy bashing on the Alabamans too...