A still from SA Tourism's latest ad campaign.
A still from SA Tourism's latest ad campaign. (Image: YouTube)

A new SA Tourism ad has riled up at least half of the state, which, outwardly, was the body’s intention.

For most of the 30 second ad, all we see is “Old Mate”; an old man in a nice fancy suit, wistfully experiencing some of South Australia’s many renowned tourism hotspots. A jetty, a vineyard, a park; the “Festival State” has truly got it all!

Then Old Mate climbs Adelaide Oval — without a guide or group, because he’s lonely, see? — and starts crying. Suddenly, something’s up. For a split second, it seems like he’s just crying at the majesty of the view, but a voice-over soon explains it’s much more than that:

“Don’t feel sorry for Old Mate. It’s his own damn fault he didn’t visit Adelaide sooner.”

Surprise, surprise, using both sadness and the spectre of death to sell South Australia hasn’t gone down great online, with at least one commenter calling it depressing enough to need a Lifeline number.

But the SA Tourism Commission (SATC) is unbowed, with marketing executive director Brent Hill arguing they just really, really wanted “to punch home that message that too many people were saying ‘we’ll get to Adelaide one day’.”

The team have even given Old Mate his own blog post. And because they can’t help themselves, every third paragraph includes lines like “that’s why I’m writing this to you, full of regret”, and “If only I was 30 years younger!”.

This isn’t the first time SATC has embraced a “bold” marketing strategy. In 2018, they accompanied an otherwise decent AFL grand final spot with 120 hours of online streaming of new tourism footage that, in the words of Dee Madigan, appealed exclusively to “bored people”.

Last year wasn’t the best for SATC. Not only did they replace local ad company KWP in April with Melbourne-based agency TBWA to promote South Australia, but the state’s Coalition government then appointed Liberal-linked ad man and KWP-founder Andrew Killey to their board.

Objectively, however, South Australian advertising peaked with 2013’s Barossa commercial. Set to Nick Cave’s ever-enticing “Red Right Hand”, we got images of colonial-era people fondling fruit and cheese, carrying dead chickens, squirming around in mud, pouring a variety of liquids through a variety of vats, and finishing up some night hunting. We also get an entirely still shot of a meat locker, and footage of men unloading a truck at night. The ad ends with a burst of fire, and a woman staring at a man in a dark field, crying.


Nothing on Earth makes me want to go to South Australia less than this ad.

Old Mate might be mourning his Adelaide-free youth, but at least he’s not going to be murdered by sexy young farmers and their drunk boomer friends, singing about Satan in a dusty (if immaculately shot) hay field.

Even then, the whole “Death State” vibe is far better than that cloying Melbourne wool ad, and only marginally more offensive than that time former Geelong mayor/wizard Darryn Lyons “reinvented” his “Sleepy Hollow” city and saved its hideous zombie citizens with mayor magic.

Peter Fray

Inoculate yourself against the spin

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and protect yourself against news that goes viral.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today to get your first 12 weeks for $12 and get the journalism you need to navigate the spin.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey