How Tourism Australia made one of the biggest Super Bowl ads of 2018

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 5 February 2018

In one of the biggest, boldest and most high-profile executions it’s done in years, Tourism Australia (TA) has revealed the star-studded, Crocodile Dundee-themed Super Bowl ad it is hoping will attract a generation of Americans to Australia.

The 60-second ad aired today on US and Australian television networks in the second ad break into the first half of the game. It’s the spot closest to half time, which is a high profile slot in the schedule.

Tourism Australia is one of very few Australian brands, and very few tourism bodies, to attempt to break through to American audiences with a Super Bowl ad.

Ahead of the big reveal, AdNews talked with Lisa Ronson, CMO of Tourism Australia, about the audacious strategy.

She tells AdNews: “There haven’t been a lot of Aussie brands that have gone into Super Bowl and we feel like we're probably the only tourism brand in the world that can pull this off and get away with the cheekiness.”

The spot is just one part of a $36 million campaign. In the week running up to the big game, Tourism Australia was already trending higher than brands such as Pepsi and Budweiser with established Super Bowl traditions. It had achieved social media reach of 412 million by this morning, of which 80% was in the US. 

The teasers have gained 68.8 million visdeo views - more than double the number of views of any other brand’s Super Bowl videos, according to Tubular Labs. The next highest was Amazon.

The cast includes a who’s who of Hollywood Aussies such as Chris and Liam Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe (who is actually a Kiwi), Margot Robbie, Ruby Rose and Isla Fisher - and of course a cameo from Crocodile Dundee, Paul Hogan, himself.

The campaign, which goes far beyond a single Super Bowl spot, is aimed at bringing more American tourists to Australia in the coming years. The US, along with China and the UK make up more than half of all tourism to Australia.

Watch: Behind the Scenes:

Currently inbound tourism from the US delivers around 780,000 visitors and $3.7 billion to the Australian economy each year. Ronson says the plan is to raise that to close to $6 billion per year by 2020.

“It’s not just to beat our chest and make a Super Bowl ad,” says Ronson.

“We looked at lots of different platforms but we kept coming back to the Super Bowl because there is no other platform like it. It reaches more than 100 million people, and it reaches more than 50% of our high value travellers.

“No other platform comes close to that and consumers really lean in to the advertising messages in Super Bowl so we knew it would be a good way to start our push into the US.”

Check out thirty years of iconic ads from Tourism Australia LINK

The activity that began a week ago is the start of a two or three year US push, which was at the centre of the media agency pitch it ran in 2017.

UM won the account globally, and a large part of that was its strength in the US.

Historically TA has targeted audiences on a demographic basis, but when Ronson took on the CMO gig in 2014 one of the first things she did was look at the foundations of its activity and what it was trying to achieve. High value travellers were key. 

"What we're trying to do ultimately is make sure that were positively impacting the Australian economy with as much international visitor expenditure as we possibly can,” she explains.

The idea for the Dundee Returns idea was pitched by Droga5 as part of a closed pitch last year, and it works on a number of levels, according to Ronson.

It centres on the idea that Crocodile Dundee’s son, played by US actor Danny McBride, has lived in the US his whole life and is returning Down Under to star in the remake ‘Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home’.

“In the Super Bowl platform, people are looking for something creative and they can be bit negative if brands just drop in existing creative. People really lean in to the advertising so much that the expectations are really high,” she says.

“That's why in the pitch we knew we needed something bespoke and creatively outstanding that understood the American context but with an Australian heart.”

Clemenger BBDO Sydney is TA’s agency of record, and AdNews understands BBDO and R/GA New York were also involved in the closed pitch.

From that description, it could only be Droga5, fronted by Aussie icon David Droga, that fit the bill. Ronson wouldn’t confirm who was in the pitch, but says each of the agencies delivered outstanding responses.

“We bought into the fact that it had to be emotional in some way, and for the Australian personality, it had to be humour. The agency thought the mood and tone we've got is what people would be seeking the year. If you get it wrong, it’s not good so we had to make sure that the agency understood the mood of the nation,” she says.

Read: Check out thirty years of iconic ads from Tourism Australia 

The campaign taps beautifully into the entertainment trend towards reboots. Not a day passes without a reboot of an 80s or 90s iconic movie, cartoon or sitcom being revealed. It is also anchored in a perception many Americans still hold onto about Australia.

The first Dundee movie was released the same year as Top Gun and was only $2 million behind it at the box office. TA’s research revealed that Dundee and Steve Irwin are still top of mind when Americans think about Australia. 

“The last time anything shifted the dial on that was back in the 80s around the Paul Hogan ad and the Dundee movies,” says Ronson.

“Hollywood is obsessed with reboots and we’re trying to bring that character and the notion of Australia that they know and love, and bring it into a modern contemporary Australia. It maintains our cheekiness and the Aussie larrikin spirit.”

Beyond the creative idea, the media placement is key to the success of a Super Bowl spot.

UM parent Mediabrands buys more Super Bowl inventory than any other group in the US, which means they had strong negotiating power to get the spot its high profile position before half time.

TA worked with more than 20 commercial partners including Qantas, American Airlines and Australian Wines. Plus a number of Australian and US media partners, including Channel 7 which aired the game on Australian television during the broadcast, and Facebook, Google, Expedia, Twitter, Travelzoo and NBC, are also on board as part of the campaign.

The $36 million campaign includes a major content series which has been rolling out of the past week, as well as TV spend in Australia, digital elements, and partner marketing.

Part of the challenge Ronson is trying to tackle is that of conversion. Research has shown that while Americans want to come to Australia and there is high consideration and intention, many don't follow through.

It has worked with Qantas to develop a strong promotional offer and make sure that as soon as the ad drops in the US, flight deals are available.

Ronson says they are “unashamedly” turning on the big sell after the big brand ad and a content series will roll out over coming weeks addressing common concerns and questions round travel from the UK to Australia, such as the length of the flight. 

The four teaser spots starring McBride, Jackman, Robbie and Hemsworth will be followed by a short ‘infotainment’ content series called ‘Why Australia’. It will tackle some of the practicalities of travelling from the US to Australia and will see McBride interview the Aussie stars as well as Curtis Stone, Jessica Mauboy and Matt Wright, about their views.

“We’re being very commercial about it to convert people, get them on the plane and provide them the information they need to book their holiday to Australia,” she says.

“Australia is still a very abstract destination for many Americans. Most have the perception the flight is longer than it is, so we’re trying to get around that. We’re trying to be very practical and simple offering the key things we need to get across. Not just a pretty visual of Australia.”

It’s impossible to tackle Dundee without the original Crocodile Dundee. Hogan has the rights to the movies and is executive producer on the campaign. A cameo in the ad is only fitting.

“Hogan was always so passionate about tourism… He changed the future of Australian tourism and put us on the map back in the 80s. He went down to see the Prime Minister at the time and convinced them. He’s the godfather of Australian tourism,” says Ronson.

Check out the 90-second ad: 

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