How would you set about rebranding Australia? It's a question being asked of the country's most innovative marketing brains, following the decision by the Rudd government in February to dump the "Where the Bloody Hell Are You?" tourism campaign.
Some considered it too coarse and foul-mouthed. The Brits and Canadians banned it, of course, prompting criticisms that the catchphrase had generated more heat than heat-seekers.
Meanwhile, potential visitors in the vital Japanese and Chinese markets apparently found it unfathomable. The larrikin-style slogan was lost in translation.
For all the criticisms of the "Where the Bloody Hell Are You?" campaign, the latest figures show that Australia has posted the strongest tourist spending in almost a decade. Holidaymakers injected $A85 billion into this $A1 trillion economy. And this at a time when the strength of the Australian dollar has made it more expensive to come here, and the environmental lobby is encouraging people to holiday closer to home.
Nonetheless, Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson wants a new, three-year campaign touting Australia as a "mature, inviting country". The recent 2020 summit in Canberra proposed something similar: a "greater international understanding of Australia as a mature, creative, innovative society".
More "cool Australia" than "Koala Australia" seems to be the aim.
After deciding that the global image of Australia's most populous city needed a facelift (see previous blog), the Sydney Magazine approached a few advertising companies for inspiration. One of them came up with the slogan "Sydney. Proudly UnAustralian". You can see it here.
It features that great staple of Australian tourist brochures, the Sydney Opera House, but with a twist - it's white-tiled roof is emblazoned with the words "NO WAR" in bright red paint. Another image features two butch rugby players locked in a passionate embrace. "We're a City which gets lumped with the clichéd view of Down Under," says the website. "But we're not like that."
And how about the "All that and more" campaign from JWT? Here's a taster.
"Sydney, it's a bit like London. Classic Museums, Rich History, Hyde Park, Paddington, the Queen on Our Coin. It's just lacking the miserable weather, miserable people, pasty faces, snobby bitches, soggy chips, warm beer, cold winters, teens pushing prams, lager louts, slappers, geezers, madcow diseases."
Nifty stuff: fight stereotype with stereotype.
When the internet-based political action group GetUp launched a nationwide competition to sum up "Oz in thirty seconds", this was the winner.
"We're young and free. This is what we Australi-are. We're clean and green. Down to earth and healthy. You might say we're ground-breaking and outspoken. We're diverse. We're sorry.
And this is what we Australi-aren't.'
Victims. An old boys club. We're not scared. And we're definitely not American, colour blind or gullible."
There seems to be growing agreement that its time to ditch the clichés.
Here, it perhaps helps that Kevin Rudd is, in the traditional and stereotypical sense at least, fairly "unAustralian". He says he has only been drunk on a few occasions in his life, is clearly more fluent in Mandarin Chinese than "larrikin Australian" and doesn't appear on daily power walks dressed in green and gold tracksuits. His idea of fun seems to be a two-day brainstorming session rather than a one-day cricket match.
It's all a far cry from when Paul Hogan was Australia's most prominent government-sponsored front man.
Kevin Rudd clearly believes that "Brand Australia" needs to be revitalised. It appears to be one of the overriding aims of his prime ministership, with echoes of the "Cool Brittania" stuff in the early days of the Blair years.
What the bloody hell do you think?