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'Old Mate' ad not our responsibility: Tourism Dept boss

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The new head of the Department of Trade, Tourism and Investment says her agency is not directly responsible for the ‘Old Mate’ advertising campaign and the “jury’s still out” on whether it worked.

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Leonie Muldoon told a parliamentary committee this morning that DTTI was not responsible for the  widely derided “Old Mate” ad campaign, but rather that it was only responsible for the “outcomes” of the campaign, produced by subordinate agency the South Australian Tourism Commission.

Muldoon told the committee the “jury’s still out” on the effectiveness of the campaign, featuring “Old Mate” – an older gentleman, tearful about leaving his visit to South Australia until late in life – and could not say how much it cost.

“We’re not managing ‘the doing’ – we’re managing the results,” she told the committee.

“It isn’t for the Department of Trade, Tourism and Investment to be intervening and being creative developers … that’s not my skill set.

“We don’t control the operational or content side of the day to day operations of the SA Tourism Commission.”

She said, only, that she believed the campaign’s target demographic was middle-aged prospective tourists interstate and that it would ultimately be judged on whether they were convinced to visit South Australia as a result of the campaign.

The Joyce Review into South Australia’s trade and investment strategy recommended that: “clear responsibility should be given to DTTI to regularly monitor the plans and performance of both (SATC and Study Adelaide) and provide advice on their progress to the Minister”.

Muldoon acknowledged that under “the Joyce Report we have been made responsible and are in the process of negotiating some high-level indicators that look to whether or not the performance aligns in particular with the new industry development strategic plan”.

Nonetheless, she argued: “It’s not the case that this department engages to control the actual daily marketing and promotion activities (of the SATC).”

Muldoon said that the “free publicity” generated by the campaign had come up during her conversations with Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway.

However she said no negative aspect of the campaign had been discussed.

Opposition Treasury spokesperson Stephen Mullighan told reporters outside the committing the ‘Old Mate’ ad campaign had been an embarrassment to the state and that someone needed to be held accountable.

“Surely somebody should have alerted the government to the fact that this campaign was an absolute stinker, that it was going to be an embarrassment to our state and that we would become a laughing stock at the hands of the rest of the nation,” he said.

“We need some detailed advice about who knew what about this campaign, and when.

“There’s nothing positive about this campaign at all.”

He added that it was extraordinary that “the agency that is responsible for advising and supporting the Tourism Minister having no understanding about how much this campaign costs, how it was developed and who had input”.

“It seems no one wants to take responsibility for this shocking advertising campaign.”

SA Tourism Commission CEO Rodney Harrex told InDaily last week that the campaign had achieved “cut-through” and helped challenge entrenched stereotypes about South Australia interstate.

“What we’re trying to do is trying to get the cut-through in a difficult media environment,” he said.

However, the head of South Australia’s peak body for the interests and rights of older people, Jane Mussared, said the campaign played to outdated stereotypes about the elderly being “pathetic”.

“It is far from inspiring, it is gloomy and portrays hopelessness among older people … it uses the ‘pathetic old’ stereotype which, if it was ever true, is no longer,” the Council on the Ageing CEO told InDaily last week.

“The message should be the reverse of this ad – it is never too late, come on down.”

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