SA Tourism caught in 'cash for tweets' scandal

By By David Blight | 24 April 2012
South Australian Tourism Commission 'Let Yourself Go' campaign.

South Australia Tourism has been lambasted for paying personalities to tweet about Kangaroo Island, but the body has said there was nothing "covert" about its actions.

A segment last night on MediaWatch accused the tourism body of asking celebrities like singer Shannon Noll, chef Matt Moran and TV personality Sophie Falkiner to tweet positive comments about Kangaroo Island. The program said the celebrities were "secretly taking money", and not telling their followers the tweets were actually paid-for endorsements.

MediaWatch likened this activity to the 'cash for comment' scandal which formerly plagued the radio industry.

As evidence, the ABC program produced an email which had been sent around by a publicist saying: “I have been contacted by South Australian Tourism and they are looking for high profile celebrities with a high twitter following to tweet about Kangaroo Island.

“They will pay $750 plus GST for one tweet. They don’t want to tweet to appear endorsed, rather an organic mention, injecting your own personality into the tweet.”

The email said the tweets should not appear “endorsed”, and should look “organic”. However, South Australia Tourism Commission director of marketing communications David O'Loughlin told AdNews there was nothing “covert” about the marketing tactic.

“That email did not come from South Australia Tourism. That was not our brief. Our brief was for personalities to talk about Kangaroo Island in a way relevant to them.

“If we were being covert we would have said 'do not reveal this is paid for'. We did not do that. If the personality wanted to reveal it was paid for or not, that was up to them. Most followers would realise it was paid for anyway.”

The tweets formed part of a larger campaign, led by a television commercial, which has been created by Adelaide agency KWP!.

KWP! Creative director James Rickard told AdNews: “If you look at the MediaWatch website, most comments have been positive anyway. Last night's story probably served to give us greater exposure.

“I wrote most of the tweets for the campaign. Some of them were changed by the celebrities, but others went up verbatim.”

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