Australian tourism ads: Ruby the Roo to sell Australia to the world, but she isn’t the first to do so

Highlights Ruby, a computer-generated kangaroo is Tourism Australia’s newest brand ambassador. But she’s not the

  • Ruby, a computer-generated kangaroo is Tourism Australia’s newest brand ambassador.
  • But she’s not the first to sell Australia to the world.
Ruby, a computer-generated kangaroo is Tourism Australia’s newest brand ambassador.
As the face of Australian tourism, Ruby (voiced by local actor Rose Byrne, and in Japan by Maryjun Takahashi) has the potential to become ingrained in Australia’s identity across the world, just as others have done before her.
Advertising companies have , had and in an effort to get international travellers to Australia, and they have spent tens of millions of dollars at a time doing so.

But some Tourism Australia television advertisements stand out more than others, here are a few of them.

‘Slip an extra shrimp on the barbie’

In 1984, before his role as Mick Dundee in the Crocodile Dundee movies, Americans received an invite “down under” from Australian actor Paul Hogan.
Known locally for his sketch comedy series The Paul Hogan Show at the time, he brought his ocker sense of humour to the campaign in which he introduced Americans to “the land of wonder.”
Some of what was featured in the television advert were beers, a bikini-clad woman on the beach and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Hogan’s closing line “I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for ya,” has since become intertwined with parodied ideas of the ‘Aussie’ identity.

Paul Hogan dressed in pants, a crocodile skin vest and a wide brim hat.

Paul Hogan, who’s best known for his role ‘Mick Dundee’ in the Crocodile Dundee movies may have had one of the best known lines in an Australian television advertisement. Source: AAP / Mary Evans

While for Americans, that line has since become synonymous with Australia and Australians, it didn’t sit well with everyone.

Some Australians weren’t impressed at being depicted as larrikins but the biggest upset came at the use of the word “shrimp” in place of “prawn”.
The word better catered to an American audience’s understanding of the shellfish but has ever since connected a phrase that no Australian has likely uttered previously with its the country’s modern identity.

Did they flip this flop?

While Baz Lurhmann’s 2008 movie Australia may have had mixed reviews, most who saw it would agree that the shots of the Australian landscape in it were pretty stunning.
Leveraging on the release of that movie the director put together a series of television advertisements for different overseas markets featuring Brandon Walters, a young boy who was featured in the move.
The Aboriginal boy invited viewers to and it took people from their everyday humdrum lives to dream-like Australian landscapes.

Rude and crude in the Northern Territory

It wasn’t an official tourism campaign, but it did receive a lot of attention.
The controversial “C U in the NT” slogan was part of an unauthorised campaign by a group who at the time said they aimed “to represent the true spirit of the Northern Territory.”
The slogan, which has since been has won over just about as many people as it has offended.

But it remains widely recognised in the NT and across Australia, having had an online store selling merchandise operating for the past six years.

Where the bloody hell are you?

The Tourism Australia campaign that made Lara Bingle a household name was initially banned in the United Kingdom due to its use of the word “bloody”.
Launched in 2006, the light-hearted advert featured, among other destinations Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.
It had a young boy telling viewers “we’ve got the sharks out of the pool,” a reveller watching the fireworks at Sydney Harbour saying “we’ve turned on the lights” and a woman fronting an Aboriginal dance group saying “we’ve been rehearsing for 40,000 years,” before Bingle (now Lara Worthington) walks along a beach and says “So where the bloody hell are you?”.
Then-tourism minister Fran Bailey was forced to defend the use of the word “bloody,” saying even her kids said it.

Eventually, the UK overturned the ban on the ad and allowed it to play during nighttime slots.

Former prime minister Scott Morrison who was then managing director of Tourism Australia when the advert was launched but the phrase came back to bite him in 2019 when Worthington tweeted, “Scott Morrison: WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU???”, during the nation’s worst bushfire crisis, which led to the phrase trending on Twitter at the time.

Kylie, Warnie and quokkas

Back in 2019, when booking overseas holidays was more popular than ever, pop princess Kylie Minogue fronted a directed toward a UK audience.
Joined by comedian Adam Hills and featuring the late-Shane Warne the ad even had Minogue donning overalls, in a nod to her role as Charlene, a mechanic in s.
Kylie Minogue leading a group of dancers, imitating quokkas, dancing in scrub.

Kylie Minogue sung about quokkas in a 2019 Tourism Australia advertisement. Source: AAP / Tourism Australia

The ad poked fun at the differences between Australia and the UK and came at a time when Britain was working towards Brexit.

Hills and Minogue sang together, “Negotiating tricky trade deals is a shocker, but look, there’s a quokka and that’s what you need, a quokka is literally what you need.”

A tourism re-build

According to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, international tourist numbers in the year to June were just 13 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
A little more than one million international tourists visited the country.
Tourism Australia managing director, Phillipa Harrison said there was “pent-up demand for an Australian holiday.”
“We know that Australia consistently ranks high on people’s consideration list but we need to get travellers to take that critical next step and book their holiday to Australia to experience everything we have to offer,” Ms Harrison said.

“Visitor economies around the world are looking to rebuild as we emerge from the pandemic and that will make the tourism landscape more competitive than ever before.”