SA Tourism Commission Warned “Old Mate” Ads Were A Disaster Months Before Launch

SA Tourism Commission Warned “Old Mate” Ads Were A Disaster Months Before Launch

Just released documents have shown that the South Australia’s Tourism Commission was warned its now infamous “Old Mate” ads were inappropriate months before the campaign even launched.

The ads, released in September, were the work of TBWA\Melbourne and were roundly condemned as being “offensive, ageist and depressing“.

But new research obtained under Freedom of Information laws and reported on the ABC has revealed South Australia’s Tourism Commission was warned that the ads were “not child friendly” and would only appeal to grey nomads.

According to the report, the ads were shown to focus groups prior to their public debut with respondents bemoaning the campaign as depressing, lacking diversity and being too male-centric.

According to the documents “most interstate travellers agreed that it’s not child friendly and potentially aimed at older travellers or ‘grey nomads'”.

“More variety in the attractions shown in Adelaide/SA would help counter this and enhance the impact,” it noted.

Focus group attendees commented: “I can’t take my kids to any of these locations … I’d be more interested in activities for families.”

Another added: “This type of holiday is about 30 years away.”

“I am not sure that they show that there is really enough to do and see there,” said another.

“This ad would be further enhanced, however, by showing different people from different backgrounds or different demographic profiles enjoying the variety of activities in SA,” commented another.

South Australia’s Labor opposition led the chorus of complaints over the ads, lambasting the government’s decision to award the creative to a Melbourne agency and for cutting the state’s tourism budget.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said: “Let’s get that advertising contract out of Victorian hands, back into South Australian hands and get our state’s marketing back on the right track.

“Steven Marshall’s got an opportunity now. He’s the Premier of South Australia, he’s the Tourism Minister. The buck stops with him and he’s got the chance to reverse that,” Malinauskas said.

However, supporters of the campaign – that finished in December – said South Australia’s Tourism website had received 22 million hits following the launch of the ads.




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  • Brent Hill 2 years ago

    Hey guys.. As you can imagine from a release put out by the Opposition Labor party in SA, the information contained in this was so inaccurate it was not funny. It sounds interesting but is a dramatic reinterpretation of facts, for political means.

    Here’s some facts:
    – Would we seriously contemplate putting out an ad if it was universally panned by focus groups?
    – Appeals to grey nomads? The ad was pitched tongue in cheek to a much younger audience. If anything some of the loudest voices who didn’t necessarily like it were from the older demographic, as they didn’t appreciate the dark humour element.
    – TBWA\Adelaide have been in Adelaide for 2 years, and they are our agency. Referencing Melbourne is, again, a hackneyed, tired political sledge to try to appeal to misplaced patriotism.
    – The Old Mate – campaign cost approx. $1.2 million. Not $10 million as claimed by Labor. It generated 7.7 million reach in paid media, 12.3 million in free/earned media and had total reach of 22.3 million Australian people – for $1.2 million in costs
    – The campaign resulted in a 65% increase in web visits, led to 258,430 leads and referrals to South Australian tourism businesses and accommodation figures reported September as 11% up YoY for Room Revenue, and October was 22% up YoY for Room Revenue. Both records. Occupancy was up 10% to a record high
    – The research conducted by Colmar Brunton in fact, revealed that, of all the concepts presented to focus groups, “Old Mate was the most likely to increase the participants interest in going to South Australia or Adelaide. The ad showcased a wide variety of activities and was seen as the most original”
    – Tourism numbers in SA are at a record $7.8B, up 13%.

    In short, for what it cost, it worked. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea sure, but sometimes you need to be brave and try different things, and for a challenger brand (we’re not the first thought of destination), it was warranted. The results have vindicated that. Now, we have launched #BookThemOut to help our industry post bushfires. The truth is, that at a time when we needed everyone to get behind our tourism industry to recover, that an opposition party decided that was the right time to try and bring out some crap like this. I think you probably couldn’t stoop lower.

    Cheers, Brent – SA Tourism Commission.

  • Nicola Feeney 2 years ago

    Thanks for the perspective Brent Hill. The infamous “Where the bloody hell are ya” springs to mind. Now infamous and probably one of the few tourism campaigns that everyone still recalls. Why? It was controversial but cut through. The campaign created awareness in a tough environment. Nothing wrong with taking risks. #oldmate

south australia tourism commission TBWA\Melbourne

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