Twenty years after Paul Hogan first put a shrimp on a barbie, Australia is again looking for his replacement.
Tourism Australia is expected to dump model Lara Bingle as the face of the country along with the 2 1/2-year-old “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign that brought her to public notice.
Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson confirmed the tourism body had yesterday called for a review of its $180 million advertising accounts, on which the fate of the campaign hinges.
Mr Ferguson denied Tourism Australia’s advertising budget could be cut to reduce government spending, as visitor numbers were shown this week to be stagnant.
“The actual marketing budget allocation for the campaign is a matter for the TA board and I am not aware of any decision by the board to make cuts to this area,” he said.
Lacklustre tourism numbers released on Tuesday showed an increase in arrivals by just 2 per cent last year to 5.6 million, but falls in key markets such as Japan and Britain.
Australia has careered between singer Delta Goodrem, cricketer Richie Benaud, Bindi Irwin and Bingle in recent public relations and advertising campaigns to promote the country. Even The Wiggles have had a go.
But none has come close to the lift that the Hogan “shrimp on the barbie” ads gave tourism in the mid-1980s.
The marketing for countries such as New Zealand, which promotes itself as a pristine destination that is “100 per cent pure”, have left Australia in their wake.
Mr Ferguson and other tourism administrators are understood not to be fans of the “Where the bloody hell are you?” ads created by advertising agency M&C Saatchi. They called for a review of it more than a year ago.
However, the review announced yesterday had been called because the advertising contracts expire later this year.
Industry sources said the “bloody hell” slogan, which was never used in Japan, and Bingle, who has already been replaced by other actors in some versions of the campaign, were unlikely to survive the review.
The Howard Government stood by the “bloody hell” campaign, but senior tourism officials were “not fans”, one source said.
The cream of the advertising industry will be casting around for a new way to showcase the country.
Tourism and Transport Forum managing director Christopher Brown said Australia still needed to promote its natural tourism destinations to the top end of the market.