Whatever market the
Australian “bloody hell” tourism ads appear in, and whatever the
regulatory response, we are told that we shouldn’t worry because it’s
all “great PR”.

The
underlying assumption is that it has to be good because it has
generated free publicity. Yet no-one – neither gullible journalists nor
gullible ministers – have asked what sort of coverage, how extensive it
has been and what the impact on our tourism market might be.

For
“free” publicity to be a blessed virtue we have to assume that all
publicity is good. For instance, AWB has been attracting a huge amount
of publicity recently. Whether it is “great PR” or not is another
question. “Free” publicity from controversial advertising can be
beneficial. The controversy, some years ago, about the Holeproof
airline security check strip ads did generate publicity which may have
had real brand value. (The writer, by the way, advised against them but
was delighted to be proved wrong) Benetton posters – including the
Christ-come-Che Guevara type AIDS sufferer – are probably somewhere in
the middle of the good-bad free publicity continuum.

So, when
the tourism minister, Fran Bailey, next claims another victory for
“great PR” journalists might ask the following questions: what media
monitoring have you done in the target markets which have concerns
about the ads; how much media coverage was there; was the media
coverage positive or negative; what was its overall tone; what key
messages about Australia as a destination did it convey; were these key
messages consistent with the campaign objectives; has the coverage had
a demonstrable impact on propensity to choose a holiday in Australia;
what were the impressions of Australia as a whole conveyed by the media
publicity?

Such questions are media monitoring 101 for PR students. Not apparently for the Minister nor for those who report the story.

Peter Fray

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