Let me start by saying I am not a conspiracy theorist. Global warming exists, aliens are not trying to contact us and Elvis is stone-cold dead.
However, this week I was very intrigued when social media started chattering about merchandise being sold by a new Northern Territory online store calling itself ‘NT Official’. The website sells t-shirts and souvenirs with almost identical branding as Tourism NT, emblazoned with the catchy slogan ‘CU in the NT’.
In a week that has been dominated by much discussion about a couple of US politicians, this little website has gained global media coverage, which is huge for an Australian tourism campaign.
Tourism NT was outraged. Horrified. Appalled. A hastily put together statement was flung to media outlets stating, “Tourism NT has no connection and is no way affiliated with the website or Facebook page of NTOfficial.com or any of their promotions.” In fact, there are whispers that once Tourism NT finds the crafty culprits behind the rogue site, they will be served with a ‘CU in Court’.
I cannot help but wonder though, who would have created such a website?
I had a look at the ‘CU in the NT’ website. It has clearly been created by a group of individuals with creative experience, technical know-how and money. The website is nicely designed, professional and of high quality.
So, we’re not talking about a bored kid with a smutty mind sitting in his bedroom peddling out WordPress content. This website has an underlying Shopify platform which takes execution and design.
Lots of advertising agencies create websites using Shopify. Agencies like Common Ventures have done work using Shopify. Funnily enough, NT Tourism is listed as one of its previous/current clients. Interesting…
Very clever guerrilla marketing campaigns are certainly not new and have been orchestrated in Australia before. One of the most memorable would be the ‘Jacket Man’ campaign that fooled us all in 2009.
Heidi Clarke, a beautiful young woman launched a YouTube appeal and graced Australian brekky TV programs pleading with the public to help her find her Prince Charming. She said she had met him at a city café and they formed an amazing connection. While she did not know his name, she did have his jacket that he had left behind.
Australian romantics went into overdrive to reconnect these star-crossed lovers, only to discover days later it was a massive hoax. Cinderella suddenly turned into a pumpkin, Heidi was an actress hired to promote a menswear line.
Do you remember that woman who tattooed her arm with an advertisement for the Great Barrier Reef to win a dream job? Another ploy! This was cleverly crafted by Tourism Queensland.
From a marketer’s perspective, I applaud any clever tactic to insert a brand name into conversation. However, if a genius creative does craft a controversial and potentially deceptive campaign, they are at risk of polarising their audience and losing consumer trust. For this reason, let’s hope that if they are in fact behind this ‘CU in the NT’ campaign, the good people at Tourism NT know what they are doing.
Paul Cornwell is a Managing Director at BCM