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Ad research found "zero" perceptions of Adelaide

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There is a good reason why the latest Adelaide tourism commercial is so radical – extensive research discovered that our target tourism market didn’t have negative perceptions of the city but, rather, no perceptions at all.

James Rickard, KWP! creative director and the writer of the Adelaide: Breathe commercial released this week (see below), said campaign research into the well-heeled Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne market had “terrifying” results.

“We did a lot of research interstate and we found that the perceptions of Adelaide were zero,” Rickard told InDaily. “Not negative – there’s nothing at all. Adelaide just didn’t register on the radar – and that’s terrifying.

“We have got to address the inertia otherwise we will wither and die.”

This was the impetus for Rickard’s unusual commercial, with its falling astronaut (a woman, as it turns out) and the fast-cut, dream-like sequences that are only rarely recognisable Adelaide scenes.

The ad has been roundly criticised but after suffering a similar backlash for his Barossa: Be consumed commercial, Rickard is unfazed, particularly by negativity in Adelaide which he points out isn’t the target market.

“Although it’s copping some negativity there are supporters and a lot of that is coming from interstate,” he said.

“We are doing something different so people are pretty resistant to change. It is a very unusual commercial.”

Rickard said the arresting imagery is necessary to break through the domestic market’s indifference to Adelaide, which he says extends to the events that South Australians consider to be drawcards.

Even the Tour Down Under and WOMADelaide – considered two of the jewels in our tourism crown – aren’t sufficiently well known or understood to drive tourism by themselves.

“We always tell ourselves in South Australia that the Tour Down under is the greatest race outside of the Tour de France. That’s true, but a lot of people didn’t know about it.”

There was confusion about the world music festival WOMAD – was it something to do with women’s liberation?

“A lot of them had no real perception of what we had to offer. But if you gave them a menu of events they’d say: ‘So what? You can do that in other cities’.”

So the challenge became to present Adelaide in a completely new light – as a place “alien” to other Australian capitals. Hence the “complex and subtle” imagery that Rickard came up with.

“If you hang your hat on those events and those products they say ‘so what’. But if you have them at an emotional level they will have a look at it.

“This emotional investment can’t be under-estimated. It’s subtle and hard to explain to people and incredibly hard to write.”

The commercial will be followed by a more conventional marketing campaign, selling the products and events that Adelaide has to offer.

Rickard said the commercial tried to capture a resurgent spirit of innovation in South Australia – something he pegs to our past as a place of world-leading social and cultural innovation.

“It you look at the ad critically, you would say it’s presenting a creative, free-thinking, interesting place,” he said. “And that goes back to this city’s DNA.

“A lot of our state’s steps forward were firsts – not only in this country but in the world.

“That entrepreneurialism is really bubbling to the surface again in South Australia and we wanted to capture that.”

Rickard believes that without the success of his previous Kangaroo Island and Barossa campaigns in boosting tourism numbers, his Government client would not have accepted such a radical commercial for Adelaide.

“Without a shadow of a doubt – there’s just no way it would have happened,” he said.

From the beginning of the SA Tourism Commission’s change of direction two years ago, when it released the stunning Kangaroo Island: Let Yourself Go campaign, there were doubts at senior levels of government.

Rickard said that outgoing SATC marketing boss David O’Loughlin was a powerful and persuasive figure in convincing the State Government that the new campaigns would work.

He was proved correct.

“We have in fact created a completely new genre of tourism advertising,” Rickard argues.

“It’s far more cerebral and subtle and so hard to quantify (than conventional previous campaigns), which is why people attack it.”

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