Havas’ Nick Kavanagh shares how The Long Road digital content series used music and road trips to promote New South Wales as a travel destination among young Australian travellers.

It’s an odd quirk of a career spent mostly in the UK that it’s Australians who’ve had the most impact on my approach to communications. So it is probably no coincidence that I’ve ended up calling Australia my home.

And what a country it is. From the Great Barrier Reef and its vibrant arts scene, to Uluru and the best coffee on the planet, the sheer variety of experiences on offer continues to blow me away.

So I have always been surprised by how rarely Australians actually holiday in their own country – a trait I found to be particularly acute amongst my colleagues and friends who were pre-family.

Indeed, a survey released a few years back by the local youth publisher, Pedestrian, revealed that amongst Australian travellers aged 20-35, 15% said the biggest barrier to travelling domestically was the lack of exciting activities or locations, while 22% said they didn't know where to travel.

This lack of consideration amongst younger travellers is a major issue for businesses reliant upon tourism, many of whom are in rural locations that have also been devastated by drought and the awful bushfires of 2020 that destroyed vast tracts of the Australian landscape.

Young travellers generally stay longer and spend more when on holiday, with the Australian youth travel segment worth an estimated A$11.3 billion. Failing to encourage this audience to travel domestically therefore has serious long-term ramifications.

So however awful and challenging it was for us all, for our client Destination New South Wales – the state government agency responsible for the growth of tourism in Australia’s most populous state – the COVID-19 pandemic actually represented a huge commercial opportunity.

For the first time ever, the closure of international borders meant people simply couldn’t travel abroad.

Our brief, very simply, was to find a way of increasing consideration of New South Wales as a travel destination amongst young Aussies and stimulate a single trip in the state. Inspire young people to scratch their travel itch by taking a single trip in the state and we could stimulate the regional economy in the short term and potentially influence a lifetime of subsequent holiday decisions.

Turning the volume up on adventure would be critical – this was an audience who generally sought holiday experiences that were new and different, and even challenging. But we also needed to land what makes NSW so unique compared to the other states vying for the attention of young travellers.

So what was that difference? Our incredible regional diversity.

You see, in the incredible state of New South Wales, you can sunbathe on some of the world’s whitest sand, trek through a world heritage rainforest and connect with the world’s oldest living culture, all in a single trip.

No other state in Australia, perhaps even the world, can offer such variety of experience. Having established this thought, it became patently obvious that TV, in its traditional, linear 30-second commercial sense, wasn’t going to answer the brief.

A single ad could never bring to life all that the state had to offer and anyway, we needed an idea that was designed and delivered specifically for younger travellers.

Content and context had to work in unison

Using Destination NSW’s first party data from Google Analytics 360, we scrutinised the content consumption and behaviour of young travellers both before arriving at our websites and whilst on them. 

This analysis revealed that younger travellers had a particular affinity for editorial and destination-based content relating to food and drink, outdoor adventure and sites of cultural importance.   

However, we also wanted to understand how media channels impacted travel motivation and behaviour. Using our suite of proprietary audience planning tools, we were also able to uncover that the key drivers of destination inspiration were almost entirely derived from social media, vlogs and celebrity recommendations.  

Our strategy therefore focused upon the delivery of multiple, video-led narratives spanning locations across the entire state, ensuring variety, difference and distinctiveness. The theme of accessibility was also central to the execution. 

In order to maximise the cultural resonance of these stories of love for NSW, the storytelling needed to be delivered not by Destination NSW but individuals with existing credibility and social cache with our young adventure seekers.  

One of the amazing things about modern media agencies is the breadth of the offering that we’re now able to provide clients. Some, like Havas, can offer full journey planning, data expertise and strong creative departments. Led by Francis Coady, our creative team, Havas Sports and Entertainment, rapidly synthesised the key strategic inputs into an idea that redefined destination marketing.

The long road

Hosted by Aussie broadcast talent, Ash London, The Long Road digital content series took some of Australia’s music talent along for the ride as we explored one of six iconic, breathtaking road trips through regional NSW:  

  1. Grand Pacific Drive with Guy Sebastian 
  2. Kosciuszko Alpine Way with Baden Donegal from Ocean Alley  
  3. Greater Blue Mountains Drive with Connie Mitchell from Sneaky Sound System 
  4. Darling River Run with Amy Shark 
  5. Mighty Murray River Drive with Polish Club 
  6. Rainforest Way with Troy Cassar-Daley  

Comprising seven-minute video episodes, Instagram stories and bespoke Spotify playlists curated by each artist, The Long Road used this diverse talent to showcase the unique experiences, stunning landscapes and distinctive characters that define regional NSW’s incredible diversity, and positioned the state as the perfect place for a little adventure. 

But without a strong distribution strategy, we would fail to show young travellers all the incredible destinations NSW has to offer. 

To make the content feel authentic, we teased the launch of each episode by encouraging the hero talent to post. This was then supported with paid, reach-driving activity across YouTube and Facebook, utilising a large volume of formats of varying lengths to engage the audience in multiple ways.   

To build momentum and longevity, an always-on retargeting approach built an audience pool of avid viewers throughout the course of the campaign. Using a “single click” method, we moved young travellers from ad unit through to the long-form content seamlessly, successfully providing the trip inspiration our audience craved.  

The Long Road represented a major departure for Destination NSW, eschewing traditional forms of communication in favour of prioritising digital-first engagement to increase share of voice and traveller preference – all built upon insight derived from its destinationnsw.com and visitnsw.com platforms.  

The combination of data, bespoke content, influencer marketing and targeted digital delivery resulted in The Long Road becoming Destination NSW’s most successful digital campaign to date, generating over 3.3 million video views.

In total, young travellers spent two million hours with the content which, don’t forget, comprised seven-minute episodes. Designed intelligently and using personalities they are genuinely interested in, it is possible to capture the attention of young people with commercial messaging longer than your average TikTok.

Most gratifying of all though was the fact that The Long Road – as part of a much broader strategy for Destination NSW – generated 21,000 visits to the state and A$43.3 million in incremental income for regional NSW.