Harold Mitchell: I wonder if adland’s Anglo-Australian force understands this country’s diversity

Australia’s creative agencies are failing to reflect the diversity of Australia because of the British domination of the industry, media agency boss Harold Mitchell has suggested.

In his column for Fairfax Media syndicated in The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times, Mitchell sugests that the now notorious “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?” Lara Bingle ad for Tourism Australia failed to resonate with the world because it came out of “the English advertising culture”.

The ad was created by M&C Saatchi in 2006. Mitchell – chairman of Aegis Media – wrote:

“Sometimes I wonder if our media and marketing people understand this rapidly diversifying country. There is a very strong Anglo-Australian force in the advertising industry with a healthy representation of young British professionals. They grew up in the English advertising culture that was so vibrant 25 years ago with the likes of Morris and Charles Saatchi and others. So it’s not surprising they came up with the infamous line for the Australian Tourism industry ”Where the bloody hell are you?” And it went down like a lead balloon.

That campaign sank without trace because it completely misread the true nature of our culture and the world beyond our shores. Who can’t wait to snorkel on the world’s best-known coral reef, experience an opera in the most famous modern building on the globe, or simply get married in a rainforest?

If you think of our society of more that 200 cultures, how do you think that line would work for a middle-class traditional Pakistani or Indian family planning on visiting their student children?


  1. Assimilated Pom
    16 Feb 13
    12:45 pm

  2. He has a very good point.

  3. Simon
    16 Feb 13
    1:38 pm

  4. This makes zero sense.

    “Sometimes I wonder if our media and marketing people understand this rapidly diversifying country.”

    If anyone understands a rapidly diversifying country, it’s the British.

    “So it’s not surprising they came up with the infamous line for the Australian Tourism industry ”Where the bloody hell are you?””

    He says that like no-one in the Australian Tourism Industry (who presumably have a nice strong quota of Australians working there) didn’t sense check the campaign themselves?

  5. Sean
    16 Feb 13
    2:01 pm

  6. Never thought of it that way and I’m not even an Anglo. Makes a very good point on how we perceive our nation to be.

  7. Stating the obvious
    16 Feb 13
    3:50 pm

  8. Harold always has a view but what are Carat and the other Aegis agencies doing about it? Marketers look to agencies for consumer insights as well as tv buying!

  9. Assimilated Pom
    16 Feb 13
    4:22 pm

  10. Are there any coloured newsreaders on TV channels 7, 9 or 10? If not why not?

  11. obvious
    16 Feb 13
    4:47 pm

  12. So damn obvious, look at your TV, then look out your window. Notice the difference.

  13. Tom
    16 Feb 13
    9:34 pm

  14. +1000

  15. AdGrunt
    17 Feb 13
    8:35 am

  16. He’s broadly right…

    as well as leading you to his excellent stable of cross-cultural and niche media vehicles that will allow you to nuance your message to every cultural group in Australia for a very reasonable price.

    However, if Where The Bloody Hell Are You failed (and his measure is unclear) it was more because it had no cogent idea. It was a mish-mash of stock tourism footage wrapped up with a moistened bint chucking out the mildly controversial line. Controversy and global tourism are rarely happy bed-fellows.

    If you visit the major attractions around Australia, they are healthily and happily frequented by families apparently from recent immigrants and their relatives. So something is working, despite the exchange rate.

  17. Alex
    17 Feb 13
    9:42 am

  18. I dont think you can blame the failure for the TA campaign on british creatives, its more a lack of creative talent in Australia in general.

    To communicate a global message to every potential visitor (e.g middle-class traditional Pakistani or Indian family planning on visiting their student children) would mean a highly complex campaign which is a logistical nightmare and heavy on expense. The idea to create an ad that appeals to the mass market in general is a much more sensible way to get bums on seats. In this case the messaging was poor.

  19. Rob Peterson
    17 Feb 13
    12:37 pm

  20. Maybe the issue being raised should be aimed at Tourism Australia who seem obsessed with presenting the World a vision of the country that has little or no mention of the icons that tourists really want to see (koala’s, beaches, opera house etc).




    Obsessed with the future not the past?

    It’s not a Brit thing, it’s an adland thing.

  21. copyfiona
    17 Feb 13
    2:29 pm

  22. If i ived in France,for example, I don’t expect an ad campaign to specifically address me, an Australian living in Bagnolet.

    Having worked on tourism campaigns, I feel the problem is an age old one – too many cooks (sorry – chefs these days!) spoiling the Agency’s idea pot. It has to go through so many Gov depts and checks that you end up deserts away from the original.

    Nothing to do with Anglo, Indio or Spanito – plain old ‘the Agency wanted a koala and had to do a nightmare with eight legs.’

  23. Johnny
    18 Feb 13
    9:11 am

  24. Look at the tv

    Then look at your office/street/train cabin

    See if you notice anything slightly askew

  25. Tom
    18 Feb 13
    10:28 am

  26. MKR gets it.
    Most other shows don’t.
    Most of Adland doesn’t either – not because they’re Brits, but because 90% of Adland lives East of Leichhardt and never venture outside the bubble. Auburn would blow their minds…
    (I’m sure the same is true in Melbourne.)

  27. Harry
    18 Feb 13
    10:52 am

  28. I think Harold is on to something here. It is almost as if these British executives have left their own multicultural shores to come to a country which they have reimagined as Britain in the 1950s. Australia is like their Midsommer Murders, not an ethnic in sight. But you can’t just blame them. Take a look at the ABC nowadays. Its locally commissioned drama is like BBC Lite, Anglo and derivative. And where is the programmer from, British and ex UKTV. It seems the attitude there is that SBS deals with the ethnics. It is actually within the government broadcasters that Harold could lobby furiously and take the lead on this. It may have a significant flow-on effect in a whole lot of areas in commercial TV and advertisers would take note.

  29. fleshpeddler
    18 Feb 13
    11:26 am

  30. M&C produced that campaign in 2006

    Tom Dery CEO
    Tom Macfarlane ECD
    Tim McColl Jones lead suit
    Michael Andrews lead creative

    hmmm, not many Brits in that lot.

  31. Paul
    18 Feb 13
    11:27 am

  32. It’s Maurice by the way, not Morris.

  33. just saying
    18 Feb 13
    11:29 am

  34. so – what about media agency land. just saying, if he popped in to vizeum sydney he would be talking to a lot of brit bloke geezers. no ladies visible last time i was in there. its a bit like being in a pub in the west end!

  35. Graham
    18 Feb 13
    11:35 am

  36. Morris? I thought they made cars…

  37. Pink Media Boy
    18 Feb 13
    11:38 am

  38. To take it a step further most advertising features white anglo saxon heterosexual couples with 2.2 kids. The statistic of 1 in 10 Australians being same sex attracted is not reflected in 1 in 10 ads….yet.

  39. JD
    18 Feb 13
    11:45 am

  40. Spot on Harold!

  41. A Koala is not a bear
    18 Feb 13
    11:52 am

  42. I agree with Harold to an extent… there is a world beyond “Bondi Beach” – I guarantee you most of these Brittons have never ventured outside the Bondi Beach Bubble and the only ethnic they probably claim to know is the guy who runs the kebab shop at 3am in Kings Cross.

  43. Bea
    18 Feb 13
    11:55 am

  44. The Project has been boasting a multicultural line up of late – especially when one of the lead hosts is away. But there is still a long way for commercial tv news to go before it reaches the diversity of ABC and SBS.

  45. Shabbadu.
    18 Feb 13
    11:56 am

  46. Ok, I’ll bite.

    But first, I’ll say it’s great that we’re having this conversation and kudos to Mr Mitchell for bringing it up.

    What difference does it make where a creative person is from? They’re talking to a target audience that is outside of their control, to a proposition/strategy that is also outside of their control. I find it hard to believe that you can blame the creative team for being English. male, female, black or white in this regard.

    I’d be more inclined to ask questions of the people who are writing the briefs and signing them off, than those who are answering them.

    On a side note, the “where the bloody hell are you campaign’ is so old John Howard was Prime Minister and Shane Warne was a brilliant, overweight leg spin bowler when it launched.
    The nation has moved on in most respects.

  47. James
    18 Feb 13
    11:57 am

  48. Harold has a very good point…. agencies need to have more diversity on campaigns like the US

  49. Sarah
    18 Feb 13
    11:59 am

  50. I think Tom has a point re the ‘bubble’. The cultural profiles of suburbs where agency folk mostly live (inner city / east and even northern beaches ) are vastly different to places as central as, say, Ryde. Hop onto the Australia Bureau of Statistics site for a gander and be amazed!

  51. Dave
    18 Feb 13
    12:01 pm

  52. Tourism marketing works on several levels – first imagine a swimming pool of potential visitors for whatever reason. You have to think long term with soft branding and continually refresh the pool. My experience was it could take 15-20 years between placing the bait before the actual decision to take it and travel. You then communicate as many reasons as possible to the pool to remind them the bait is still there, is being refreshed, and as their life changes, the country brand remains relevant. to them. If you suddenly need to go fishing, you throw in some really juicy bait to fill flights, rooms, buses and rental cars and part cash from the catch. Where the Hell Are You came across as a desperate cry from a failing and panicked brand and communicated the exact opposite of attraction. The bait was now old, foul and fronted by a bimbo adding to the confusion. You want a bumper catch? Pay $500 towards the airfare of every visitor for 2 years and can strong brand marketing. Watch the full flights landing. Then, remove the fresh bait and go back to restocking the pool, wait 5 years, then throw in more fresh juicy bait. Keep low cost branding bubbling away underneath by using visitors and social media, and hand them a $250 off the flight voucher when they leave they can use for a return visit or gift to a friend. It’s actually that simple. Been there, done that and it works. Nothing to do with anglo marketers and their silly messages.

  53. Dina
    18 Feb 13
    12:22 pm

  54. Just further confirmation on how antiquated the Australia media mindset is.

    The tagline ”Where the bloody hell are you?” is cringeworthy to say the least.

  55. Louise
    18 Feb 13
    12:26 pm

  56. I’m not sure that British ad people were to blame for the Lara Bingle ad. If a British person had been behind the idea, they would have known full well that saying “bloody” on TV or radio in the UK in advertising for Australian tourism would not go down well. It is an accepted part of Australian culture to swear on TV and radio, so I’d say it is highly likely that a non British person actually came up with that little gem!

  57. paul
    18 Feb 13
    12:51 pm

  58. MORRIS?!! Hrrrumph: That would be MAURICE Saatchi, I presume…

    Mitchell’s Fairfax columns have become a giant wheeze, where he throws out all sorts of prejudices and half-baked opinions, virtually daring Fairfax to tell him off for being so slack. It’s amazing that they let him keep writing.

    THAT SAID, however, I reckon he’s on the money here. The massive exodus from London of creatives to Oz started in the 60s (Campaign Palace etc), and their values dominated Adland for decades. Even Singo’s rough-as-guts ads got minimal industry traction.

    If accents tell anything at all, even mUmbrella’s Tim here is a recent import. Why do we still have to be colonials who take our cue from Mother England?

    By and large, from what I see, Oz Adland still remains an industry dominated by self-promoting lads whose appreciation of culture extends no further than the bottom of a beer glass. No wonder there’s a chronic surfeit of ads: in the absence of quality, quantity takes over and ends up burying everything with its boredom.

  59. Glenn Myatt
    18 Feb 13
    1:05 pm

  60. The campaign sank because it went looking for a global concept (a faulty premise in its own right for a destination as diverse as Australia) with – as Harold pointed out – an Anglo-Australian viewpoint.

    My experience in developing two pan-Asian campaigns for Tourism Australia’s predecessor, the Australian Tourist Commission, was that the idea needed to be based on imagery and tonality, not language, because of the cultural variations across the region and the difficulty of translating the nuances of a ‘clever’ tagline. To then base the idea entirely around an idiomatic line which could only be fully appreciated by an Australian (and perhaps New Zealand) audience was at best misguided. Even the Brits didn’t really get it, let alone markets with English as a second language and non-English speaking markets.

    To an earlier point, there was no doubt a reasonable amount of “sense checking”. But there was also no doubt a strong point of view (perhaps with a degree of arrogance) that Aussie larrikinism would win the day, such that evidence supporting this was elevated and negative sentiment discounted. Probably a classic case of group think.

  61. tom dery
    18 Feb 13
    1:10 pm

  62. As ever, an interesting grenade Harold has thrown.
    Like all tourism campaigns ( and we have done a few ) there is a lot of interest and controversy. The really interesting fact about that campaign is that it hardly ran at all in overseas markets ( particularly the TV ). The real reason for its so called “going down like a lead balloon ” has more to do with the cringe factor in Australia than any sense of market failure. All the testing in the UK for example showed it would have been received extremely well.
    Perhaps Harold will need to ensure his media plans come out in English, not Japanese.

  63. richard moss
    18 Feb 13
    1:19 pm

  64. Dear me. This is a tired old excuse for things going wrong.

    We could have cleaned up in Gallipoli if it wasn’t for the Brits, and we could have saved old Breaker Morant and Ned would have been a real decent bloke but for those nasty British law makers.

    Australia has become a great nation either “in spite of,” or “because of ” its heritage, I do not know which and I am not about to argue the point.

    Britain is a country with a longer and more checkered history of change and adaptation to the influx of diverse ethnic groups than our great nation, and currently manages to maintain an ethnic mix of around 62 million, in a land area smaller than Victoria.

    We are all human, we all make blunders, the ad world is not immune, and there are many more reasons for our blunders than the Brits.
    It might be the Grey Goshawk, they look a bit “shifty,” did you think of that?

  65. Alberto Rosso
    18 Feb 13
    1:25 pm

  66. I wonder if the head of Tourism Australia at the time of the Bingle Bungle, Scott Morrison, is in some way related to the Scott Morrison who is currently Tony Abbott’s immigration scaremonger.

  67. Sandy Stone's brother in law
    18 Feb 13
    1:42 pm

  68. There’s plenty of tinted persons in advertisements on Australian television.

    Only last night I saw one advertising insurance with a lovely young Australian lass on her holiday fantasising about miscegenation with what I assumed was a Dutch East Indian barman cum gigolo.

    I was gratified to see that she did not pack him in her bag to bring him home but I dare say that will be the next step.

  69. richard moss
    18 Feb 13
    3:00 pm

  70. So where the bloody hell are you? A second look at the ad example above has confirmed for me, that the question might well be asked of artistic integrity; where the bloody hell are you?

    The ad fails to engage the viewer from the start, it wanders the wrong path, and it presents plastic images. It would have been better using one voice rather than individual grabs (which could have worked had they been better focused) and the opening statement is wrong; Its a waste of good beer to pour it too soon, but they will want to know that you’ve got it nice and cold for them.

    Just my personal opinion.

  71. Steve
    18 Feb 13
    4:57 pm

  72. Last time I walked the streets of London it was pretty multicultural…just sayin!

  73. Groucho
    18 Feb 13
    5:20 pm

  74. The campaign failed because it was crap. No strategy, really dumb casting, a sad misrepresentation of the “Aussie” character, Just empty pretty but irrelevant pictures. It was bad enough to have been a client concept. Perhaps it was. It was a wasted opportunity, and it was a triumph of bureaucracy over creativity. Its a good thing it wasn’t shown much overseas because it made a look like village idiots. The cringe factor that Tom Dery uses in the lame attempt to defend it was how we felt after we saw it. If it tested well in the UK it was probably because the methodology wasn’t good enough. And even if it tested its arse off it was still crap.

  75. Jacob Hodgman
    18 Feb 13
    5:28 pm

  76. The accent on the ‘indigenous’ dancer is so wrong. Sounds so rehearsed.

  77. Nic Halley
    18 Feb 13
    7:01 pm

  78. he’s right you know

  79. Nic Halley
    18 Feb 13
    7:02 pm

  80. bloody foreigners

  81. Bob
    18 Feb 13
    9:39 pm

  82. re #34 Sandy Stone’s brother in law , is right. We have lots of tinted chappies on the TVC’s. What about Rhonda and her 3rd world toy boy, Ketut

  83. Mmm
    19 Feb 13
    11:30 am

  84. Hey Harold.. MKR shows ethnics.. and they are all baddies

  85. Laura
    19 Feb 13
    3:28 pm

  86. Not the first time he’s been banging his anti-Anglo drum and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I had the misfortune to see him speak at the Mumbrella conference last year where I seem to remember him showing his great distaste for Mumbrella’s strong English contingent on its staff. He should try working in UK media and seeing how many Australians there are working there (which, incidentally, isn’t a bad thing at all).

  87. jean cave
    20 Feb 13
    11:11 pm

  88. A good percentage of the tourist/visitors (not sure what the difference is?) to wonderful Australia are in fact Brits who empty their wallets into the Australian coffers. I know I did, so can i suggest . . .be grateful and let us return as often as we like.

  89. jean cave
    21 Feb 13
    10:16 am

  90. Also it seems to me that Australia is a tophole place to get some artistic inspiration because of the exotic differences, extreme everything and VitaminD rush combo.

  91. Alison F
    22 Feb 13
    9:34 am

  92. He’s right and it feels like it’s been the case forever.
    As a woman working in advertising, me and my female colleagues often used to talk about the young, white privileged males coming out of privileged white backgrounds and suburbs all around the Eastern Suburbs – many of them, admittedly, were also from England. It had to be said, then and now, that it can’t be good for a unique, creative pov.
    Just take a look at parliament some time to see how under-represented our diverse cultures are. Just look at senior management to see how under-represented women and minorities are too.
    Of course, when Harold says it…

  93. AndyC
    22 Feb 13
    11:56 pm

  94. Eerily this post resembles one I wrote about a year ago at MarketingFutures.com entitled “Australia’s People Problem”.

    In it I address the reality that a quality population double that of our current tiny caravan park is really all we need and things will sort themselves out.

    Anway, for a micro-discussion on the issue in this article here -that is the problem of out-of-touch work- is not an issue of origin, creed, industry or mustering.

    The issue is one of gender vs aptitude.

    Recent psychological research on Collective Intelligence has uncovered 3 core contributors to increased group smarts:

    – High levels of turn-taking, ie equal input in communications
    – High levels of social perceptiveness
    – The presence of females

    Given that #2 and #3 are intertwined, all fingers point at one big issue not yet addressed, that being the problem of top-heavy male dominance.

    Hopefully soon more and more of us males will realise this isn’t cricket, its communications.

    This lingering, largest and most pernicious weak point of Australia’s makes an otherwise “with it” bunch of legends look far less than ordinary.

    Just saying.


  95. jean cave
    25 Feb 13
    7:57 pm

  96. It is my perception, that if men hand over control/management to women . . it is (usually) because they have screwed up and want out.

  97. AndrewC
    4 Mar 13
    9:54 pm

  98. Jean that sounds like a correct observation of something you have observed.

  99. Future Marketeer
    4 Mar 13
    10:57 pm

  100. I am not going to plug anything, nor link back to my own blog.

    There are loads of Pome’s in Oz because the world is a smaller place, due to Facebook / Skype etc.

    20 years ago half of the Pome’s who are here now would not have been able to cope (missing family and of course things like watching football etc.) With technology helping people to stay in touch, Oz is home from home, with sun.

    People who messed around at school and didn’t get the grades to be Lawyers, Accountants and didn’t try banking, move into advertising. Far easier to earn $200k a year in advertising than it is being a Lawyer in terms of hardships to get there.

    Off track? Probably.

  101. English Creative
    6 Mar 13
    4:13 pm

  102. I’m multicultural myself. And I’ve proposed multicultural casting for TV ads here. In my experience, it’s the clients who don’t sign it off, not the agency people who don’t propose it.

  103. John Ham
    7 Mar 13
    10:16 am

  104. Harold’s broad point is a good one, but such a weird example to use given that the line “where the bloody hell are you” sounds like the least British line I can think of. Sounds like someone from the outback wrote it. While we do have a very Anglo industry it’s odd to put the blame on British people.

  105. Creative Hack
    11 Mar 13
    12:20 pm

  106. Agree with English Creative. Every time we suggest someone of another ethnicity than Caucasian, we are overruled by clients. Ludicrous to blame the Poms; mainstream Australia has been in denial about multiculturalism for years – just witness the Australian flag-wearing jingoism of Australia Day and the endlessly repeated racism of “go back where you came from” whenever anyone not obviously Anglo dares to offer an opinion or criticism. Or even who simply dares to catch public transport.

  107. James
    12 Mar 13
    9:21 pm

  108. Once upon a time we made our own ads, with our own people. around the time Conrad Black owned our newspapers, something changed, and we started allowing US or UK made spots with voice dubs.

    I long for the Aussie Mum declaring that she Baygon’d the kids cubby house, or Mojo declaring that the same MUM should be congratulated for choosing Meadow Lea. For Christ’s sake.. Crack and watch HULU.. The Yanks make good relative ads for their market, why can’t we?

  109. attack of the 50ft woman
    12 Mar 13
    10:01 pm

  110. Nonsensical point by Harrold – how can one blame a whole race for one ad. This is not the level of analysis we expect from this adman. Worth ignoring.

  111. westie producer
    14 Mar 13
    10:46 am

  112. What Harold says is true – the creative agencies of Australia draw a complete blank when it comes to knowing the new Australia. Our new kids ARE coming from middle class homes throughout Asia and even Latin America. Living in Blacktown I get tired of seeing the same old advertising approaches, anglo voices and faces, and in reading mags like Campaign you can see that all the lads remain whitebread and boring as hell. The ABC reflects this too in its choices for Gruen Transfer (still a great show) and other comedy programmes. The people are all good looking and very nice but it feels as though it represents only 5% of the population. The earth is tilting in western Sydney and new culture is bringing new ways of communicating and telling gags. But its not a fashionable locale and you have to take a “multicultural middle class bus tour” from the east/north shore to enjoy the delights of Cabramatta or even Marrickville for crying out loud! When are the agencies moving their heads from Millers Point to Maryong?

  113. evarard
    15 Mar 13
    3:17 am

  114. Harry, there were two black people on Midsomer Murders last week. I will write a strong letter of protest to my UKIP candidate.

    Don’t know about the tourism ad, but all Tooheys New advertisements appear to be stuck in 1967….