Luhrmann's Film Won't Help Brand Australia

The Country's Tie-in With the Big-Budget Epic Will Only Confuse

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Stephen Byrne Stephen Byrne
The Country Brand Index (CBI) now ranks Australia as the top country brand in the world, which may suggest some homogeneity around our identity. But I'm wondering whether the latest Tourism Australia campaign is made disingenuous by its link to Baz Luhrmann's depiction of Australia in his period epic set to open this week.

A plethora of film tie-ins and promos -- everything from a range of smartly designed but nostalgic Australiana homewares from production designer Catherine Martin right through to the much-vaunted tourism hook-up -- is being served to present a country blurred by brand and film images.

The Luhrmann/TA TV and cinema ads opportunistically piggyback on "Australia" the film and add confusion to the identity of Australia the country. It's a marked contrast to TA's prognostications made 10 years ago to shift perceptions of the country away from natural scenic beauty. Subsequent brand refreshes in 2003 and 2004 were designed to emphasize a broader cultural context. Its 2007 campaign again focused on natural beauty, but the earthy humour was considered derisory.

Now TA's back to Australia filled with natural beauty and an invitation to go walkabout. This time they've added Luhrmann's beautifully shot sunburned scenery, but the only real difference is a whitewashed Aboriginal narrative that borrows heavily from Nic Roeg and Peter Weir films. Let's not overlook the fact that the message is delivered by a character featured in both "Australia" the film and the campaign.

The country brand's No. 1 ranking might have everything and nothing to do with the success of TA's campaigns, and CBI's international travelers might indeed love Australia the film, but I'm not sure which version they think they'll see next time they're here to visit.

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