Tourism Australia is planning to spend $15 million on so-called “branded content”
by replacing its paid advertising in Australian newspapers and
magazines with paid-for editorial content. But while the
tourism body pays for acres of editorial talking up the delights
of holidaying in Australia, what about the readers who don’t realise that they’re actually
reading ads?

Crikey contacted four editors who’ll be
running the tourism advertorial – but only one of them was prepared to explain how the deal will work.

We asked Trudi Jenkins, editor-in-chief of Vogue Entertaining &Travel, Notebook and Delicious, Peter Lynch, executive editor of Fairfax, and Jane Southward of ABC magazine Life etc, whether this effort to pass ads off as independent copy was fair to readers, but they didn’t respond.

Only Bruce Guthrie, editor of The Weekend Australian
magazine, would talk to us. “We currently do a Dream Travel issue each
October that focuses on international destinations and journeys. The
content is entirely at my discretion; advertisers have no input,” he
told Crikey.

“We’re contemplating a second travel issue next
year that would look at Australian destinations and journeys. Again,
content would be entirely at my discretion and advertisers – be it
Tourism Australia or independent operators – would have no input into
that either. Presumably they would choose to support it or not based on
whether they believe it a good environment for their products. For a
number of years the magazine has carried the annual Australian Tourism
Award winners and that is identified as a Special Report.”

Last week Andrew McEvoy of Tourism Australia told The Australian
that “if these projects look like advertorial we’re screwed… we’re
trying to marry our brand with a media brand. We don’t write the copy.
Our logo’s not on the front.”

Sounds like Tourism Australia’s plan doesn’t exactly subscribe to the Australian Society of Travel Writers
code of ethics, which states, “As representatives of the public
interest, members shall serve as ‘travel critics’ as ready to comment
critically as to praise…” and they shall “not accept payment or
courtesies in return for writing favourably contrary to their true
appraisal of the subject/s.”

Meanwhile, B & T is
reporting that Tourism NSW has just announced partnerships with News
Limited and the Seven Network worth $6.7 m worth of media to lure
domestic and international tourists to the state. Seven Network CEO,
David Leckie, talked up the deal, saying, “The continued success of
Seven companies in the cross platform arena has ensured seamless
integration in a truly innovative way.”