Among the bizarre and fascinating things that Australia has contributed to the world – including a pink lake, news stories involving shark wrestling, and the astonishing ability to lose a prime minister in the ocean – is the fact that now, “chief funster” is an actual job title.
It is one of six job postings posted last month; help-wanted ads that are a front for a much larger global marketing campaign for Tourism Australia – and behind it is an initiative targeted specifically at Canada.
The campaign is a sequel to a 2009 initiative from the country’s tourism authority that captured the world’s attention: that year, it posted the impossibly idyllic job of “island caretaker” in a tropical paradise.
The campaign was a massive success in promoting Australia as a destination. Nearly 35,000 applications flowed in, and thousands of news stories on the contest were produced worldwide.
Last month, it ran with the strategy again, this time posting a call for six jobs. All of them involve essentially having a ball in Australia for six months, and writing about it to encourage the envious hordes to visit themselves.
However, Canada is the only place where the organization is going further with one more job: a blogger that will visit all of the winners over a few weeks and cover their exploits. In the process, the campaign has become a test case in how to reach a media-weary generation of young people.
The focus on Canada is due to the popularity of the working holiday visa program – this country outstrips even the U.S. when it comes to visitors to Australia.
Young people make up a large segment; last year 7,768 working holiday visas were granted to Canadians aged 18 to 30. But while the visa program has grown over the past 10 years, recently Canadian applications have been stagnating. In 2012, they fell 3.6 per cent compared to the previous year.
“We wanted to do something extra in Canada,” said Jane Whitehead, vice-president of the Americas for Tourism Australia. “It’s a fun campaign … that lends itself to social and digital tactics that particularly are favoured by the younger audience, rather than some of the traditional advertising approaches.”
To promote the blogger contest to young people, she turned to Toronto-based Redwood Strategic Inc., which has been working with Tourism Australia to help develop its youth strategy in Canada.
“They came to us with a very common brand problem: ‘How do we engage youth?’” said Redwood’s founder and CEO, Dave Wilkin.
Mr. Wilkin launched Campus Perks three years ago, and since then it has more than doubled in size every year. The site is like an online dating service, but instead of people seeking a romantic connection, it is for brands seeking young consumers.
University and college students create profiles, outline their specific interests, activities they lead on campus, and what they’re looking for – sponsorship opportunities.
Campus Perks has been building up a network of more than 60,000 students who are willing to spread a brand’s message among their millennial colleagues – through contests they participate in and promote, or by attaching a brand to their groups’ activities – in exchange for samples of a company’s sports drink for their sports teams, or money to run group events, for example.
For this contest, Campus Perks sent invitations to apply for the contest to people in its network who are involved in activities related to travel and tourism: people hosting travel-abroad events, international student nights and international business conferences, for example.
Of those approached, about one-third responded, with hundreds of applications coming in. The agency chose the best ideas from that list, and 20 finalists competed for the spot by promoting the Best Jobs in the World program.
They reached out to campus newspapers and local media outlets, hosted events, and gave away swag bags filled with promotional merchandise such as T-shirts and stuffed koala bears.
The student who did the best job helping to advertise the Best Jobs contest will win the blogger job, announced next Friday.
For Ms. Whitehead, the strategic approach is clear: for a generation difficult to reach through traditional media, there is great value in a network of peers creating buzz by word of mouth, in person, and on the digital platforms where the attention is actually focused.
Beth Saunders, a 24-year-old commerce student at Memorial University in St. John’s and one of the finalists in the Canadian contest, agrees.
“If they didn’t have this partnership, it’s a market they might have a harder time tapping into. I’m here, and promoting it … it’s worth their time and money,” she said.
“They’re engaging with the brand. It’s not just, ‘Okay, there’s a poster in a sea of posters,’ where you see it, but you don’t.”
The campaign has done its job. The Canadian participants have driven more than 540,000 impressions, or views, of the campaign on social media, and have reached an estimated 765,000 more people through news stories and other media appearances they have co-ordinated – more than double the campaign target.
And as Ms. Saunders anxiously awaits the results, she says that all the time she spent learning about the country has made her want to visit.
Even if she does not win, she is strongly considering applying for a working holiday visa after graduation.
These visas are of huge value to Australia: those who took them contributed $2.7-billion to the country’s economy last year. And unlike regular tourists, they stay longer and spend more: working holiday visitors spend, on average, nearly $14,000 during their time there.
But there is a bigger strategy behind these numbers as well. Over all, the target is to more than double expenditures from Canadian visitors.
The biggest growth segment in Canada is actually affluent travellers over the age of 50; their visits to Australia have risen 14 per cent. Of particular influence with those aging Boomers, are their children.
That is the biggest story for marketers: the effort to target hard-to-reach millennials has the potential for a bigger return on investment as they spread the word to a much wider consumer segment. That is the basis on which Mr. Wilkin has pitched his agency.
“The best part is that it reaches mom, dad, grandparents, the whole family,” he said. “That’s the ROI [return on investment] with youth.”