The new Tourism Australia ad is more than a little bit genius.

They are the ads Australia loves to complain about. But this new one might just be genius, argues Jane Caro.

The hardest thing to do well is promote yourself. This is because the way you see yourself is nothing like the way the rest of the world sees you. We’ve all experienced seeing a photo of ourselves that we think is hideous while others think it is flattering. It is a salutary lesson to discover that the image we carry around of ourselves in our heads may not be very realistic at all. 

tourism Australia indigenous ad
A still from the new Tourism Australia ad.

And that’s why tourism advertising is so often so awful. Not just in Australia, either, but the world over. The ads the home crowd like are often the ones that go completely unnoticed by the intended audience – people who do not live in Australia. We want to sell the things that make us proud – our food, wine, coffee (particularly our coffee) and sophisticated city lifestyle. Trouble is, realistic as that may be, it is not what most of the rest of the world associates with Australia and it is not what will bring them here. They have cities of their own. 

That’s why I have always believed that Tourism Australia should get ad agencies from overseas to create their advertising. Unfortunately, sensible though this would be, it is also politically impossible because the idea of all that money going to a foreign business makes most politicians go a little pale.

With its latest campaign, however, I think Tourism Australia has had a stroke of genius. They have managed to get outsiders to create the message but in a politically acceptable way.

Watch it, here. Post continues after video. 

Video via Australia

The new campaign concentrates on indigenous Australia. This is clever for all sorts of reasons. Firstly it is one of the things that does make us different and that is attractive to visitors. If they’re going to schlepp all this way they want something they can’t get anywhere else. Yeah, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the food, wine, coffee (especially the coffee) and sophisticated city lifestyle when they get here, but its not enough to bring them on its own.


By getting two film makers who specialise in indigenous stories – Warwick Thornton who directed Samson and Delilah and Brendan Fletcher who directed Mad Bastards – to create the campaign, Tourism Australia has given us an outsiders’ perspective.

Watch the most iconic of all the ‘Come to Australia’ ads. Post continues after video. 

I know, I know, it is ridiculous to call indigenous Australians who have been here about 39,800 years longer than anyone else outsiders but, to mainstream, white Australia I think that is still what they are. Mind you, I think it can be a great thing to be an outsider. It means you are able to make the astute and realistic observations that insiders miss.

The short film (or long ad) Thornton and Fletcher have created is lyrical and stunning to look at but it gives potential visitors more than just pretty pictures. It gives them a glimpse of something indigenous Australians still have and most of the rest of us occupying this battered old planet have lost. That is a sense of connection to place, to tradition, to environment and to an ancient way of doing things. It is also what Aboriginal art offers the world and we all know how successful that has been on the world stage.

Enjoy the most controversial Tourism Australia ad of them all. Post continues after video.

Is using indigenous Australia to sell us as a tourist destination exploitative? Of course it is. It’s an ad, isn’t it? Made to sell seats on planes, rooms in hotels and bums on tour buses. Ads are by their very nature exploitative. 

But – and this is an important but – to be represented in an ad is very mainstream, very normalising. I remember writing a laundry detergent commercial in the early 90s that featured a divorced couple without making a fuss about it. Our client was contacted by a divorced mother after it appeared. She tearily thanked him for making her feel like her family was just another kind of normal and nothing to be ashamed of. I remain proud of that.

Baz Luhrman attempted a similar piece in 2008. Post continues after video.

Maybe I am naive or just absurdly optimistic about the (occasional) positive power of advertising, but I like this campaign. It’s cheesy in parts but it represents something very positive about this country. Namely our growing understanding that indigenous Australia has something unique to offer – not just to their fellow Australians – but to the whole world. Mind you, it’s taken us long enough.

It’s good to see Tourism Australia via Thornton and Fletcher use their advertising powers for good as well as evil.

What do you think of the new Tourism Australia ad?

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