Whether or not we ‘like’ the new Adelaide ad doesn’t actually matter

I’ve had some really interesting chats to people about the new South Australian Tourism Commission Adelaide. Breathe TVC over the last couple of days.

On first viewing I found it hugely engaging but also a little bit disappointing – I was drawn to it’s gorgeous aesthetic but felt ‘my’ Adelaide was missing. I’ve watched it a few times since – I think Jeffrey Darling, the director, is a genius. I’m still not sure if it will convert into more visitors.

But that’s my opinion and guess what? It doesn’t actually matter. Nor does yours.  Newspaper polls that ask people what they think of an ad are also missing the point. Here’s why:

Advertising is not trying to please you and it doesn’t need to be liked. In my 11 years in communications I have never written a brief for an ad campaign or a communication plan with an objective that reads:

  • To ensure that the community holds our creative materials in high regard and positively assess the advertising as a ‘good thing’.

No, the job of an ad like this is ultimately to convert thought into action – it is about bums on seats. An ad doesn’t have to be liked to be effective (need I remind you of Designer Direct – there is a reason why those ads ran for years and years – they worked) and effectiveness is ultimately what it should be about. Whether or not I like the ad, or you like the ad, or some of Sydney like the ad or Melbourne thinks it could do a better ad is a moot point. What really matters is whether the person from Sydney books a getaway weekend here in the next 6 months.

Tourism ads are a tricky business. In 60 seconds of TV time or a five second glance at a billboard they are creating a brand for a place, giving you a glimpse of an experience and calling you to action. Tourism ads are made for people on the outside looking in, they are not the view of the inside looking out. And those inside looking out tend to be a possessive lot who’ve laid claim to a patch of turf and guard it furiously. Somewhere amongst this someone is sure to get pissed off.

The cost of the ad is also irrelevant in isolation. Lots of the discussion about whether the ad is good or not centres on its cost. But here’s the thing – continuous wailing about the cost of advertising always gets my goat. High-end production costs money but this is not necessarily a bad thing – creative industries are employed, and, believe it or not, the arts do get supported. Rather than just holding up a cost and bemoaning it what you really need to find out is what is the return on investment. $6 million is well spent if it converts into $50 million in tourism investment and we don’t know the answer on this yet.

It’s not just about bought media but earned as well. The ad has been shared numerous times on my Facebook and Twitter feed: there’s a hashtag, lots of guffawing about DeLoreans, native American headbands and kicking pigeons. There’s an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald and long discussion threads on industry magazine. People are debating what makes Adelaide good and bad and whether it is coming of age and what we love about it and whether it is still trying to be like Melbourne or Portland or the next big thing. I love that people are pricking their ears up about my city. This is good stuff.

Whether or not is actually represents Adelaide doesn’t really matter. This isn’t a documentary and my Adelaide is probably not your Adelaide anyway. What matters is what it incites in those who view it outside Adelaide and if it even goes a tiny way to helping us shed the perception of ‘boring’ it has done good*. We know Adelaide is cool but that’s because we live and breathe its intricacies, its scars and its hidden secrets on a daily basis. Sometimes intrigue or art or the unexpected is the only way to shift a long held gaze and point to something else (even if we know its always been there). With that in mind bring on the smashed berries, floating astronaut and crying singer – it might just be crazy enough to work.

*NB. The focus on the Adelaide market for the first burst of the ad does, however, continue to perplex me.

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