Mystery of Dundee trailer revealed
THE ambitious plan to take Australia to the Superbowl began over dinner at a Sydney pizzeria this time last year - but could serve tourism operators close to $6 billion in US travel business by 2020.
The mock Crocodile Dundee trailer - teased to viewers before the NFL blockbuster today - proved to be the stunning launch of Tourism Australia's biggest single advertising campaign into America since Paul Hogan fronted the Come Say G'Day ads over 30 years ago.
An all-star cast of Australia's most popular showbiz exports - lead by Thor star Chris Hemsworth and featuring cameos by Oscar nominee Margot Robbie and Hugh Jackman - featured in the 60-second spot, which aired to an estimated audience of 110 million people during the Super Bowl showdown between New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.
Hemsworth, a Tourism Australia ambassador, will also feature in the rollout of an extended $36 million marketing campaign, alongside actor Danny McBride who appeared in the commercial as Mick Dundee's long lost son.
Hogan gave permission for the tourism body to use his most famous character to promote Australia after a clandestine meeting with Tourism Australia's managing director John O'Sullivan and chief marketing officer Lisa Ronson in the cafe of a gardening centre, near Belrose in Sydney's north west in June last year.
Jackman is understood to have played "recruiter in chief" for the ad's cameo spots, getting stars like Robbie, Russell Crowe and Ruby Rose to appear for minimum SAG [Screen Actors Guild] rates - which amounts to less than $20,000 each.
"What we found with this project was just how proud Australian talent are of their origins and country, [and] having them involved just gives us that talkability," O'Sullivan said.
"We've already seen on digital channels and social media, we've reached over 369 million people. We've already earned $30 million in free publicity, so we're already paying for the campaign through their use ... it's been great."
A dinner at East Sydney eatery, Bar Reggio sparked the idea to "reboot" the Dundee film franchise - inspiring a petition by the NT News to #BringBackDundee - based on research which shows "that Americans still identify him as a character that brings Australia to life," O'Sullivan said.
The winning pitch, by New York-based ad agency Drogo 5 [run by Aussie David Drogo] played up to Americans' love of the Aussie larrikin spirit.
"Americans often say 'a party is better with an Australian in the room' and that's what we were trying to do with this concept. We then married it up with our research and said 'well, the Australian that brings Australia to life, still in that market, is Dundee' and it all lined up nicely," O'Sullivan said.
Executing the ad took some "cloak and daggers" manoeuvring, with Hoges covered in towels and walked the 150 metres from a make-up trailer parked on Hickson Road in The Rocks to Quay restaurant at Circular Quay, where part of the commercial was filmed in late November.
Their secret was almost blown during filming of another scene, when Hemsworth and McBride, along with singer Jess Mauboy and Curtis Stone were smuggled onto a harbour shotover boat.
"We were worried about getting Chris from the restaurant to the boat in Circular Quay on a Sunday morning without being spotted. But we got him in the boat, Danny in the boat, Jess in the boat and the only person people recognised was Curtis."
Mauboy, Stone and Outback Wrangler, Matt Wright will also be part of a brand extension, Why Australia? - selling American travellers on our indigenous culture, wildlife and convincing them the long flight is worth the effort.
The Superbowl provided the perfect platform to grab attention in the US, in a bid to increase travel expenditure targets from $5.2 million in 2020 by $800 million.
Australia's minister for trade, tourism and investment, Steve Ciobo said a favourable exchange rate and increased aviation capacity made the time right to convert US interest.
"While Australia ranks highly among Americans in terms of desirability and awareness of our tourism offerings, we lag behind our competitors when it comes to actual bookings. This new campaign will address this conversion challenge," he said.
Released in 1986, Crocodile Dundee raked in $328 million at the box office.
It was followed by two sequels Crocodile Dundee II (1988) and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001).
The ad was screened alongside Super Bowl ads for Coke, Pepsi, Budwiser, Skittles, Groupon, Hyundai and Toyota.
The Dundee ad was directed by Steve Rogers of Sydney-based advertising agency, Revolver.
Robbie is, of course, nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for her role as disgraced skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.
She was honoured last month at the G'Day USA gala in Los Angeles.
"I believe in luck but I believe in making your own luck even more," she said at the event.
"I also believe that waiting for doors to open or opportunities to come knocking probably means that you'll be waiting a really long time.
"You're better off going and knocking down those doors yourself."