Tourism Australia 'Philausophy' campaign: It's time to stop spruiking 'mateship'

Australia's new tourism campaign

Tourism Australia has released it's new campaign 'Come Live our Philausophy' focusing on our informal approach to life.

It must be that time of year again. Drunk people are watching horses being whipped. Instagram users are boasting about beach days. And there's a Tourism Australia campaign that everyone hates.

This last one is a tri-annual event, when our national tourism body unveils a new set of advertisements aimed at attracting foreign tourists. This time the slogan is "Come live our philausophy", a mind-bending play on words that must have gone through the Chinese whispers of committee meetings and focus groups about 30 times to eventually be belched out as it is.

The campaign includes billboard ads featuring various "Aussie" epithets such as "No worries", and "A stranger is a mate you haven't met yet", while the video ad features real people who work in Australia's tourism industry, spruiking our country over extended vision of sweeping landscapes and smiling faces – a formula that has a look and feel not dissimilar to the Qantas inflight safety videos (which, I'm pretty sure, is where they took their inspiration).

But where the bloody hell were the marketing experts? Were they hanging out in a place where "Live our philosophy" is such a common, regular saying that you could create a pun from it? Apparently.

And so "Come live our philausophy" has joined a rich canon of Tourism Australia ad campaigns that a whole lot of media commentators and social media tub-thumpers with no expertise in marketing and no access to the relevant market research have declared a failure before it can even get off the ground.

Do Australians honestly believe that we own the concept of becoming friends with people?

I'm not here to join that chorus. I have no idea about marketing an entire country to a worldwide market. I don't know what the focus groups have come up with. The slogan, for all I know, might be brilliant.

The trouble is, no one ever likes Tourism Australia campaigns, mostly because we Australians are still a bit uncomfortable with how we look to the outside world. We like to think we're modern, forward-thinking and sophisticated, whereas the rest of the world thinks we're kangaroos, Foster's and Crocodile Dundee. An ad pitched to those people is never going to feel good to those of us who call Australia home.

So I'm not going to bag Tourism Australia's new marketing philausophy. Except for one thing.

According to the campaign, there are nine distinctly Australian "philausophies" for us to promote to the world. Those include generosity of spirit, a sense of adventure, optimism, a "no worries" attitude, and mateship.

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Generosity of spirit is pretty dubious these days, but the one that really bugs me is mateship. Mateship? Most people haven't even questioned its inclusion, because the concept is such an ingrained and accepted part of the Australian mythology. Australia stands for mateship. That's what we do. We… become mates with people.

But this has always grated with me. Do Australians honestly believe that we own the concept of becoming friends with people? That we alone have the ability to form platonic, symbiotic relationships with other human beings? That we embrace our fellow man like no one else?

That's garbage. Of course we don't. You only have to leave Australia and travel to any other country for the barest second to realise that the entire world is pretty good at making friends as well.

And what does "mateship" even mean? Nothing about us that's enviable or unique, that's for sure. It's such a bland claim as a national trait, so obvious and unimaginative.

(Although that's kind of our style: take our national anthem, which is so full of bland claims that don't mean anything that it might as well be an AFL team song. We're lucky, we're free, we're surrounded by water. Great. Why not just say "We are the pride of Brisbane town, we wear maroon, blue and gold"?)

We don't own mateship, and we don't even do it a way that's noticeably better than anyone else. Have you been to Brazil? Brazilians are fantastically warm, lovely people. When you become friends with a Brazilian, you're friends with them for life. They'll treat you like family forever. That's mateship.

Or what about Scotland? I lived in Scotland for eight months or so when I was 17, and the friends I made then are friends I will never lose in my lifetime. Every time I go back to Scotland now, whether I've been away for one year or for 10 years, those same people invite me into their homes, they treat me like I'm one of them. Mates.

The same thing happens in the USA. In Canada. In Fiji. In South Africa. In Italy. In Portugal. I would venture to say that it happens in some form in every country in the world.

So come on Australia. Give up on this mateship business, it's embarrassing – far more embarrassing than Foster's or Crocodile Dundee. Let's exchange it for something that really does make our country unique, something we can be proud to call our own: our multi-culturalism; our First Nations culture; our sun-bleached salt-kissed good nature.

That's my philausophy.

What do you think of Tourism Australia's new campaign? And do you think about mateship? Is this something we can really call our own, or do other countries do it as well?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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