We made a film while everyone else made TikToks: Tourism Australia’s Susan Coghill

We made a film while everyone else made TikToks: Tourism Australia’s Susan Coghill
Edited by Travel Weekly

    While everyone else in travel marketing was making TikToks and Reels, Tourism Australia (TA) created its nine-minute award-winning “Come and Say G’Day” short film and drove incredible results, Susan Coghill told a captivated audience at Cannes in Cairns.

    Cannes in Cairns is a three-day event put on by Travel Weekly’s parent company The Misfits Media that brings together the advertising, marketing, and PR industries.

    Flanked by the Great Barrier Reef and beautiful rainforests on the other, Cannes in Cairns was the perfect setting to discuss selling Australia to overseas tourists.

    But despite the natural beauty surrounding the attendees, Coghill explained that selling a trip down under – especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic was not as easy as it might appear.

    “We support this incredible tourism industry that desperately needs international visitation to return,” explained Coghill.

    “It’s an industry made up of over 350,000 mostly small, mom-and-pop businesses that take out a second mortgage to buy boats to take you on a tour of the Murray River or up to the Great Barrier Reef.

    “Tourism is our second-largest export. One in 12 jobs are tourism-related and here in Cairns, that number is one-in-eight.”

    No pressure, then. Fortunately, Coghill – rather than striving for newness – looked back into the rich history of previous Australian tourism campaigns to create the “clear” but not “simple” brief she and the team provided to Tourism Australia’s creative agency, M&C Saatchi.

    A key point of inspiration was Paul Hogan’s “Wonders Down Under” campaign from 1984.

    While Coghill said that the ad was “iconic” and “kicked off the modern era of destination marketing,” it would obviously not stand up in today’s media landscape.

    At the time, the ad’s “beautiful imagery of Australia” combined with its “charming Australian spirit” and “just enough bikini that was still acceptable in the 1980s” made it, and Australia, stand out from the crowd.

    However, Coghill explained that the ad left Australia’s First Nations and broader multicultural community unseen and unheard. This was something she strove to be mindful of when it came to telling the world that Australia was back open for business following the pandemic. The new ad would also lean into Australia’s world-recognised flora, fauna and natural and man-made landmarks.

    Top of the list, obviously, was the kangaroo. But, despite Coghill worrying that it might seem trite and, well, obvious, research showed that people around the world still love a bouncing marsupial.

    “We did six months of research and, yes, the answer was a kangaroo. There’s a reason we have a kangaroo as our logo, there’s a reason that Qantas uses a kangaroo in its logo,” she said.

    “The kangaroo is closely followed by the koala, the Sydney Opera House, Crocodile Dundee and Uluru. So, when it came time to build our campaign, it’s no surprise that you’re going to want to stand out as uniquely Australian. We used a kangaroo, the most recognisable of brand codes, we featured iconic destinations and experiences and we chose a song [Men at Work’s “Down Under”] that struck a chord with consumers’ memories.”

    However, the job wasn’t finished. The team at TA and M&C Saatchi needed to find a way to make an ad accessible to the entire world but without being able to access global talent. The solution? Animation. Again, seemingly simple but deceptively complex.

    The final film, featuring Ruby the kangaroo (voiced by Aussie actress Rose Byrne) and toy unicorn Louie (Will Arnett), saw the pair travel around the country taking in sights, sounds and diverse people that make up the country.

    Coghill explained that the process was “two years of blood, sweat and tears” and that “we don’t have enough budget to be off-brand but equally, we don’t have enough budget to be boring.”

    Launching the campaign, Coghill said that it was a “leap of faith” and that the team were animating assets until two days before launch. Fortunately, the hard work was worth it.

    The campaign scored brilliantly in System1’s global research looking into the ad’s creative effectiveness.

    In the UK, US, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, audiences scored it a perfect five stars. German holidaymakers and their counterparts in India and China scored it four. The French, naturally, scored it a three.

    But the proof would be in the pudding. With ads placed around the world in iconic digital out-of-home sites, across socials and CTV (where it received a remarkable four minutes and 15-second average watch time) and even with late-night talk show appearances in the US, the ad performed brilliantly at hitting the high-yield customers at a top-of-funnel position.

    Australia was up 12 percentage points in consideration, 13 percentage points in intention to travel and 10 percentage points in share of search.

    But that’s not the end for Ruby the ‘roo. Coghill said that the campaign will continue to evolve and TA is committed to it being a long-term brand platform. Toys of the characters might even be on the horizon.

    So, get ready Australia, for many, many more people coming to say g’day in the months and years to come.

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