Fun, effective or “very bland”? Advertising experts divided over Australian tourist mascot Ruby the Roo | Tourism (Australia)
Very bland or a bit of well-deserved pleasure? Advertising experts are divided over Tourism Australia’s first unofficial brand ambassador since the pandemic, wondering if the computer-generated kangaroo at the center of the adverts could help revive the country’s struggling international tourism sector.
Andrew Hughes, senior lecturer in marketing at the Australian National University, said a bigger push was needed to encourage international tourists to shell out the cash for a visit to Australia.
Ruby the Roo, a cartoon creature voiced by Australian actor Rose Byrne, was unveiled to the world on a large digital billboard in Tokyo on Tuesday.
The hoodie and its slogan “Come and say ‘G’day” are part of the next installment of Tourism Australia’s There’s Nothing Like Australia brand platform, its first global campaign since 2016.
“Almost all world hits [Tourism Australia] campaigns had global celebrities,” Hughes said, citing Chris Hemsworth’s 2018 Super Bowl ad and Paul Hogan’s much-loved “shrimp on the barbie” moment.
“Travel numbers are down 50% in the US market, it’s not enough to increase awareness, you have to generate interest.”
Hughes said he would have opted for a story campaign that would weave a more complex narrative to hold attention.
“If you just have Ruby the Roo and leave it at that… I’m going to put myself in the very bland corner,” he said.
“What is the campaign all about, really? It seems to be true to form from previous campaigns that only use stereotypes. The audience is more mature.
Nathan Hodges, chief executive of marketing consultancy TrinityP3, said Australians could get a “good old nudge” at Ruby for not reflecting how they saw themselves.
But he said the CGI kangaroo “looked fantastic” and was likely to reach an international audience.
“We have this collective madness every time these campaigns come up,” he said.
“It’s not aimed at anyone in Australia or any of the ad marketing experts in Australia. It’s not a mirror to us, it’s about bringing people here.
“There’s publicity that makes Australia feel good, but there’s also publicity that works. It’s not about representing our country – we have ambassadors and politicians to do that.
Hodges said the campaign “delivers many messages already latent in Australia”.
“We have kangaroos, we’re friendly and it’s like ‘why don’t you come and have a little fun?'”
Dee Madigan, creative director and panelist for the ABC Gruen Transfer, agreed.
“I really like it,” she said. “I think we’ve gone too far into our backgrounds in some of our overseas ads – they’ve been too intellectual.
“It’s just fun and people are looking to have fun. We wanted to talk about everything else, but the things that people want to see – ie the kangaroos, the harbor bridge – why not not lead to the best of our ability?”
Madigan said the campaign’s sustained optimism was a “smart” move as tourists emerge from the pandemic, especially since its message could be translated without audio and capture a bilingual audience.
“Nothing gets lost in translation,” she said.
“Campaigns like ‘where the hell are you?’ were only going to work on Australian audiences Overseas tourists think we say “G’day” Maybe we do, maybe we don’t, it doesn’t matter.
Meanwhile, kangaroo advocates have criticized Tourism Australia for using the national icon to boost tourism amid concerns over the commercial killing of kangaroos.
Former Australian Test cricketer Jason Gillespie, ambassador for advocacy group Kangaroos Alive, said it was hypocritical for Ruby the Roo to be featured on billboards around the world after revelations about the treatment of the species.
A New South Wales parliamentary report on the management of the commercial kangaroo industry found evidence of insufficient oversight of how animals were slaughtered and recommended greater transparency in management practices.
“Tourism Australia even said we were so lucky to have a globally recognizable and lovable icon in the kangaroo,” Gillespie said.
“We need to learn to value these international icons and recognize that they are worth much more to living Australia. Our tourism industry depends on them.