EXCLUSIVE Tourism Queensland admits: The Reef video was a fake that took in AAP

reefTourism Queensland’s video of a girl getting a tattoo in order to win a job looking after the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef is a fake that fooled news organisations around the world, the organisation admitted to Mumbrella today.

The video has appeared on numerous web sites globally, as well as Tourism Queensland’s own site for the launch of the campaign. But Mumbrella can reveal that the woman’s name is Rhiannon Craig and she is a digital project manager at Cummins Nitro in Brisbane, the agency behind the campaign. The tattoo is just a transfer.

Media reported the tattoo globally, based on a report from national news agency the Australian Associated Press. They included The Independent and The Telegraph in the UK and the Courier Mail, and in Australia. Although the original AAP report does carry the qualification that the woman “apparently” had a tattoo, this was lost from many of the stories by the time they were published elsewhere.

Tegan reef fakeMumbrella first became suspicious of the video on Monday evening because it appeared on the site before it had received any publicity. And this afternoon a spokesman for Tourism Queensland told Mumbrella: “She’s not an actress. She works for the agency. It was supposed to show people the level of creativity we were looking for.”

She said that after the AAP report was picked up, Tourism Queensland tried to alert the news agency that the story was wrong. She said: “We have contacted them to explain it was not the case. They didn’t contact us before they ran with it.” She said that AAP did not put out a corrrection after being told.

Meanwhile Michael Branagh, boss of Cummins Nitro’s Brisbane office said he was delighted with the success of the project which had generated huge amounts of worldwide publicity. He said the video was put on the site to “seed” it and AAP had only itself to blame for being fooled. he said: “Bad luck to them. They should have known better.”

When Mumbrella spoke to AAP’s editor-in-chief Tony Gillies this afternoon, he said he had not been told about the hoax. He said: “I’m aware of the story; I was not aware that the video might be a hoax.” He said he would look into the issue further.

AAP’s main shareholders are News Ltd and Fairfax. As Crikey’s Margaret Simons revealed less than a fortnight ago, the hoax is not the first one to hit Australian media this year. Quadrant magazine was tricked into publishing a fake article about GM crops.

Brands that create social media campaigns walk a tightrope when it comes to creating content to kickstart discussion. At the end of last year NAB’s U Bank was derided for its efforts.

Update: Zakazukha Zoo offers further background, including Facebook-sourced images of the fakers here.


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