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TA puts more money in 'earned media', looks to create “Oprah” effect in Asia

Posted on 10 May 2011 at 00:10 am by Yeoh Siew Hoon

Tourism Australia is looking to create a similar “Oprah-like” effect in Asia so if you’ve got any ideas, contact Nick Baker, executive general manager-marketing, who’s been running the “Nothing Like Australia” campaign launched a year ago.

Talking about how the marketing landscape has changed, in fact, almost been revolutionized by social media, Baker said the role of the big idea is even more important today.

“It’s become trickier to stand out today and the crux of it is the power of the idea, and then making the idea work.”

He said the “Oprah phenomenon” created as a result of the US talk show personality hosting a show in Australia was a manifestation of ‘Nothing Like Australia’”.

“We turned it into an event, we generated advocacy and we saw conversion,” he said.

He said the event generated spikes in interest in Australia in the US market, hits to the website and and bookings made by operators. “We saw a 30-40% increase in enquiries about Australia after the Oprah event.”

Australia is said to have invested between A$4 and $5 million in bringing Oprah to its shores but Baker said the event generated 79,000 articles, four hours of primetime television and “we had people tell our stories”.

He called this generating “earned media”. This, he said, was the big goal for Asia this year.

“Could it be Korean pop? Could it be a Chinese talk show host? What would motivate audiences in Asia? This is what we are looking for.”

He sees three pillars to marketing today – earned media, own media and bought media.

In terms of own media, Tourism Australia’s Facebook page now has 1.49 million fans, half of whom are from Australia. Its target is two million fans. It created its own YouTube Symphony Orchestra channel and more than two million people viewed the video.

“I can now speak to more people in Australia than any media channel and they want to talk to me,” he said.

Explaining the cycle, he said. “We will spend more time in earned media. We will spend more resources in own media to go towards earned media and then we will have bought media pointing to the earned media and own media.”

In previous years, he said the ratio of spending was probably 60:20:20 bought, own and earned respectively but he sees that changing to 40-20-40 in the next couple of years.

The key is of course conversion of the conversation in social media to actual bookings. Baker said, “The thing is to start a conversation, build their interest, inspire and motivate them and bring them to purchase by leading them to places to convert.

“The key is to avoid leakage out of the purchase cycle and to keep them in the conversation by having social media at the right point.”

At the time of the interview, Tourism Australia had gone out globally to look for a social media agency. The tender calls for an agency for search, media and social. “They might all be in one agency or different agencies. It’s an opportunity for us to see what’s out there.”

He said there were agencies that were doing good work in social media in industries such as technology, banking and finance and clothing and luxury goods. Tourism was also beginning to figure in that landscape.

But given the fluidity of social media, Baker questions whether anyone really understands the space completely.

“Everyone is claiming they have knowledge and experience but few are capavle of truly understanding it and bringing it to life in a way that fits and drives into the total strategy. It’s no longer just about a Facebook page.”

An appointment should be made by July.

Baker said social media allowed organizations to change perceptions more easily.

Citing Singapore as an example, he said as a result of how the destination had demonstrated change by building integrated resorts, parks and theatres and then getting people to tell their stories through social media, “I now feel much warmer about Singapore as a fun and exciting place to be”.

For Australia, the number one word associated with the country is “adventure” except in China where “adventure” comes fourth, after nature, accessibility and cities.

In Singapore, it found that journeys were very important and thus it was ramping up the messaging about journeys while for Germany, it was “outback and nature”.

“With social media, it is easy to change through local execution,” he said.

Tags: Tourism Australia , Nothing Like Australia , YouTube Symphony Orchestra , Oprah Winfrey , social media , advocacy