13 November 2008

Brand Australia, I've seen the trailer.

The Country Brand Index (CBI) now ranks Australia as the top country brand in the world. While it may suggest some homogeneity around our identity, I’m wondering whether the latest Tourism Australia (TA) campaign is made disingenuous by its link to Baz Luhrmann’s depiction of Australia in his eponymous period epic.

A plethora of film tie-ins and promos: from a range of smartly designed but nostalgic Australiana homewares from production designer Catherine Martin right through to the much vaunted TA hook-up, serve to present an identity now blurred by brand and film image.

The Luhrmann/TA TV and cinema ads opportunistically piggy back on Australia-the-film and add confusion to Australia-the-country’s identity. It’s a marked contrast to TA’s previous prognostications that it would shift perception of Australia-the-country-the brand away from a focus on natural scenic beauty. While subsequent brand refreshes in 2003 and 2004 were designed to emphasise a broader cultural context, its 2007 campaign again refocussed on natural beauty but the earthy humour was considered derisory.

Now TA’s back to Australia-the-country-the-brand filled with natural beauty and an invitation to go walkabout. This time they’ve added Luhrmann’s beautifully shot sunburnt country but the only real difference is a whitewashed Aboriginal narrative borrowed heavily from a couple of Nic Roeg and Peter Weir films. Let’s not overlook the fact the message is delivered by a character featured in both Australia-the-film and the campaign.

Australia-the-country-the-brand’s number one ranking might have everything and nothing to do with the success of TA’s campaigns. Last year visitor numbers to Australia-the-country fell by between 4-5 per cent and so has the TA's inclination to link this to their campaigns. CBI’s international travellers might indeed love Australia-the-country-the-brand-the-film, but I’m not sure which version they think they’ll see next time they visit.

This blog was also published in AdAge's Global Idea Network.

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