The success of the ‘Dundee’ Super Bowl campaign points the way for the future, says Tourism Australia’s Lisa Ronson, who spoke to WARC as part of a series of interviews with CMOs for the Toolkit 2019 report.

What are you most proud of in 2018?

It always comes back to the work – great work that emotionally engages with consumers and gets them to change their behaviour, and therefore we get a good business impact. The second one I’m most proud of is the team. We’ve pulled off some pretty big, brave campaigns this year and without the team and the great culture we’ve got here at Tourism Australia, there’s no way we would have been able to be as bold and brave and creative in our thinking.

The highest profile (campaign) was definitely our ‘Dundee’ Super Bowl campaign. It’s the biggest campaign that Tourism Australia has ever done in its history. It was very, very focused – the reason why we chose that platform is because our target audience is a high value traveller. We unashamedly focused on those people that are going to come here and spend more either in a short period of time, or stay longer and spend more.

Toolkit 2019

This interview is part of WARC’s Toolkit 2019 series

Find the full report here

We wanted to look at doing fewer, bigger, better things to cut through with consumers, rather than a whole lot of little things that weren’t really shifting the dial. So we decided to go into the platform, and we went into it with a very clear strategy on still promoting our (brand) pillars, but also promoting Australians and the Australian way of life, pretty much like what Paul Hogan (the original Crocodile Dundee) did in the late ’80s. That’s how we’re starting to really differentiate ourselves from a lot of other national tourism organisations – by bringing in that ‘Australianness’ and our sense of what our lifestyle is.

It was one of the most successful campaigns that we’ve done so far based on early indicators: we had more than 200 million views, 14,000 media articles worth over A$85 million. We ended up reaching 1 billion people and the commercial results are outstanding. We won eight Cannes Lions, one being the Titanium.

What’s the biggest lesson that you learned this year in your marketing?

Fortune does really favour the brave. (Dundee) was bold, it was brave. We had to get a lot of stakeholders on board.

The second one is the power of creativity. As marketers, we’ve always known it, but I think we’ve probably got a lot too short-term in our thinking over the last three to five years. We have to emotionally engage with our audiences to get them to change their behaviour, particularly when you’re looking at high involvement categories like travel where there’s a lot of other competition.

The third one is bringing in the right people at the right time. Chris Hemsworth (the Australian actor who starred in Dundee) really helped build on the idea and make it better. Our state tourism partners, key media partners – we brought them into the tent because the concept obviously relied on us keeping it a secret up until Super Bowl. Bringing in some of those key partners and their feedback kept continually improving what was originally a great creative concept and just made it better.

How do you expect your category to develop in 2019 and how is it being disrupted?

Where consumers go to find their information has fundamentally changed… There’s a lot more peer-to-peer reviews with TripAdvisor and all of those types of sites. (Consumers are) doing a lot more online booking. It varies by market quite dramatically, but in general, we’re seeing a trend to a lot more digital channels and being a lot more confident.

New experiences, living like a local – they’re going to be the things that will continue, because people want to connect with other people. When they’re travelling, for the most part, they want to live in the lifestyle of the place that they’re going because they want to enrich themselves through their travel more than, I think, they ever have in the past. It’s not just seeing the landmarks, taking the photo, and moving on anymore. It’s very much about doing the things that locals would do, or recommendations from locals.

How do you expect to work through this disruption?

Australia’s really well positioned because we’ve had an explosion of different food and wine experiences, nature experiences, etc over the last few years. That’s only continuing to develop as the industry focuses on what different experiences we have in Australia. I think it’s an exciting time ahead for 2019. We just need to keep our eye on the customer, as we always do, and keep our eye on the ball in terms of what problems we are trying to solve for them.

For us, one of visions with our online user experience is to make that fun – you’re planning a holiday! We really want to make those journeys as enjoyable as we possibly can and as simple as we possibly can.

Which technologies are you investing in or scaling up in?

We’re continuing to look at our digital experiences and how we connect with our consumers through social, through, through (Tourism Australia’s site for Chinese tourists) and continually looking to improve those user experiences, looking at how we can personalise and package up different experiences based on what we know about consumers.

(We’re) not just looking at the inspirational stuff, but getting a lot more functional in how we can connect consumers with the industry…. Like most big marketers and advertisers, we’re looking at the role of voice and how we can continually make that user experience a whole lot better. I think for us it’s just as important deciding what we do do as what we don’t do, and we’re looking at that road map for the next three years currently, which is really, really exciting.

How do you expect your agency relationships to change in 2019? And what are you looking for in your agency?

We’re at the back end of a creative agency and a digital agency pitch because we’ve gone five years with our previous suppliers and we have to take them out to pitch when we get to the five-year mark, being an Australian government agency.

We are using creativity as a source of competitive advantage for Tourism Australia. That was the basis of the creative agency pitch, rather than what we've traditionally done in the past saying, “Oh, well you need to service these markets and make it more about the model”. We’ve made it more about the creative and the idea and the consumer. We’re very, very focused on that.

It’s all about doing fewer, bigger, initiatives, and doing some ignition moments in our key markets around the world so that we can really cut through and create that noise and tell the great story that we’ve got to tell of Australia, and then working with our partners to line up underneath some of those bigger moments and sell through to our high value travellers.

What skills will you need to hire into your in-house team in the next year?

We’ve been really developing the capability of the team over the last couple of few years but there’s always more that we can do with training and keeping on the front foot. It’s about keeping current and keeping an eye on how the consumer is changing and what are the trends and what is going to stick with the consumer and what's not.

We get outside speakers to talk about great advertising that’s moved people, to give a Cannes wrap or discuss what’s happening in AI, what’s happening in voice, what’s going to be happening in search. What are the key data points that are going to be useful for us to make decisions to make it a better customer experience or to get more engaged with the consumer?

It’s really balancing the human nature of what we do on a day-to-day basis, and that is to connect with other humans, but how does data inform that to create a better experience for the customer to get them to do something? I think that’s where we always need to make sure that we’re not just looking at data, analysis and analytics for the sake of it.

Will you be changing your media mix in any significant way over the next 12 months?

We changed a lot in the last 12 months, obviously, because we went into such a significant platform as the Super Bowl. But it’s going to depend on the idea and what'’s the best way to take that idea to market. Yes, like most advertisers, we relied very heavily on digital because that’s where consumers are, but we need to make sure that we’re balancing the channel with the message. And again, I think as marketers, we talk too much about what’s the best channel rather than what’s the best channel for the concept or the message that you’re trying to get to the consumer. So: right message, right customer, right time. And that will vary depending on what the idea is.

Where are your biggest knowledge gaps in terms of measuring the impact of your marketing investment?

We can all get better at attribution modelling to determine what is working the best and what should we optimise. I think we do a good job of it, but it’s always something that is on our minds – trying to get the model as optimal as we possibly can. For us, our biggest objective is measuring expenditure into the Australian economy. What are some other data sources that we can have a look at to support that, and to really round that out so we can draw a good line between the marketing that we do and, ultimately, the consumer coming to Australia and spending money in the economy.

Again, there's so much data we could look at, but it’s boiling it down to, “Okay. How are we going to measure this and how are going to attribute it to some of the activity that we’ve done?” As marketers, I think, we’re getting a lot more sophisticated because we’ve got the data to be able to do it.