Eccentric stories sell Tasmania to the world

In Examples by Peter Gearin

Great local characters are the stars of Tourism Tasmania’s content marketing initiative, Go Behind The Scenery.

Tasmania has always seen itself as a little offbeat. Perhaps even a bit wacky. Its people are Tasmanians first, Australians second, and they like to celebrate that they have attributes that distinguish them from their mainland cousins. They are just different, but not in the same way that Queenslanders or Northern Territorians are different. They revel in their quirkiness, even if it’s seen as slightly … eccentric.

It’s this attitude that Tourism Tasmania has tapped into for its successful Go Behind The Scenery content series. The initiative, which features a dedicated website as well as print and digital advertising executions, centres on telling the stories of known and less-known Tasmanians going about their normal zany lives. In nicely written and beautifully produced video formats, we gain insights into what motivates these very interesting people, get a sense of their warmth and wit, and discover why their lives are fulfilled and fun. Only in Tasmania, that is.

They are not typical video subjects. Most are middle-aged, or older. They aren’t wearing designer clothes or makeup. They are 100 per cent real, and a Tasmanian marketer’s dream.

We meet “The Brian”, otherwise known as the Chief Magistrate and Sheriff of Lower Crackpot, who “ran away” to Tasmania after growing up to hate Sydney. “Too busy and too much of it and all that sort of stuff.” So he built a maze on his Staverton farm ­– now he has eight mazes – as well as a model town with one-fifth-scale buildings, including the School of Lateral Thinking and the Upside Down House.

We also meet “river bum” Anthony O’Hearn, who chose to live and work in the big Tasmanian outdoors. He co-founded Cradle Mountain Canyons, taking groups of all ages for canyoning and abseiling trips through the World Heritage wilderness. The website headline is “How to avoid a desk job in one easy step”.

One less obscure story in the series is about former swimming champion Shane Gould. The five-time Munich Olympics gold medallist has found a new life in Tasmania, and swims in the cold waters off Bicheno. “You come here to find yourself, to find out what really matters,” she says. “[To] be recharged, revitalised and perhaps even reinvented.”

“We might be a bit rough around the edges but we offer a sophisticated product.”Tourism Tasmania insider

The Go Behind The Scenery series, which Tourism Tasmania developed with Sydney-based creative agency JimJam, has been running for three years. It’s seventh iteration finished in mid-April 2016, with the goal of increasing winter holiday bookings to Tasmania.

The website,, is the hub of the initiative. The 90-second video stories are the stars of the homepage, with titles such as “The Original Revhead” (the tale of former powerboat driver now vintage car restorer Francis Ransley from Wynyard) and “Live, Eat, Love, Stay” (a life sketch of Lydia Nettlefold, owner of The Red Feather Inn in Hapsden). The site also features an insider’s guide to regional destinations, a “things to do” guide and an excellent trip planner, which offers three-, seven- and 14-day options to explore Tasmania.

A Tourism Tasmania insider, who didn’t want to be quoted for this story, said the team undertook 13 months of exhaustive research ahead of the campaign launch. “We took an up close and personal look at our brand and the attributes that we have to offer and then talked to our target audience to make sure it was right,” the insider said. “We consulted with the public, the industry, our own staff and our board, the operators – we talked to everybody. Because we have the second smallest [tourism] budget in Australia we had to differentiate ourselves. We were looking for a point of difference.”

The stories are evenly spread across Tasmania. Just as deliberate is the high-quality value of the stories themselves; most of the directors and production staff used are local. A crucial part of making the stories as authentic as possible is the agency team spends a lot of time with the subjects, making every effort to understand them and their unique environment.

Tourism Tasmania says its target audience live in metro areas on Australia’s eastern seaboard and prefer holidays that are less crowded and more interesting. “What they have in common is an interest in exploring and learning more about themselves and the world they live in. We call this target audience ‘Life Long Learners’.” They fall into two age brackets: 40+ couples seeking a touring experience and 25-39 couples wanting a short break.

The campaign is mainly shown on digital channels – including Facebook, Outbrain, Pandora and Instagram – because Tourism Tasmania research found “people are more likely to visit Tasmania after seeing online advertising”. An eight-page print version appeared in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that told stories through strong photography and clever writing.

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According to the tourism body, the website attracted more than 206,000 unique visitors looking for more information on Tasmanian travel holidays during the spring 2015 campaign, with “evidence of strong engagement”. To take advantage of this, Tourism Tasmania has added a Flight Centre widget that allows customers to book flights and accommodation directly.

Tourism Tasmania says Go Behind The Scenery has achieved three key objectives. It has raised the awareness of Tasmania’s promotional activities, lifted the percentage of Australians who now consider Tasmania as a holiday destination, and “extended Tasmania’s image from that of a place with beautiful scenery to also being a destination with richness and a diversity of experiences”.

The Tourism Tasmania insider said the initiative has helped its target audience see the state differently. It is now appreciated to be rich in cultural experiences, as well as a place to get away from the pressures of big-city life. “The feel about Tasmania has changed. It’s a little bit sophisticated but it’s still back in that time warp where it’s quiet and easygoing. The air is still fresh and we’ve got the scenery but we’ve got lots to see and do.

“In the campaign we talk about ourselves. We embrace who we are. We might be a bit rough around the edges but we offer a sophisticated product.”

The insider said it’s not been too difficult to find “stars” for their campaigns. “Some of them pop out at you and you just know about them; others we have to search for a little bit,” the insider said. “We talk to all of our regional tourism organisations and our staff. The hook has got to be that they have character and some amazing story to tell or product to offer. And we’re not short of characters.”

Call Tasmania wacky, if you like. But its people are the best things going for this little state that could.

Links & references

Go Behind The Scenery website

Francis Ransley’s story

Shane Gould’s story

Laird of Crackpot’s story