As outgoing Tourism Australia CEO, John O’Sullivan points out – not many people have been helping sell Australia to the world for almost four decades.
“Paul Hogan is a national treasure,” he says of “Hoges”, who turns 80 next year. “How many people are still regarded – pretty much the world over – as the very definition of ‘an Australian’, even after nearly four decades of fronting various ad campaigns for the country?”
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the first Tourism Australia advertisement featuring Paul Hogan and “Slip a shrimp on the barbie”.
In an outgoing interview with AFR BOSS magazine ahead of his shift to the ASX-listed Experiences Co in June, O’Sullivan explains how Australia is still best sold through our larger-than-life characters, where Hogan remains the “king of larrikins” having appeared in eight Tourism Australia official campaigns between 1984 and 2018, the latest being ”Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home”.
“For me, the ‘secret sauce’ is our big Australian personalities,” O’Sullivan tells BOSS. “Bringing back the Crocodile Dundee character dialled that up a bit more,” he says of the decision to contact Hogan last year and see if he’d appear in a cameo role for the gimmicky 2018 campaign, which aimed to create the impression another Crocodile Dundee movie would be released.
Hogan was thrilled to oblige: “Crocodile Dundee is a film that has stood the test of time,” he said. “Over the past few years, I’d been thinking about how to bring Dundee to a new generation, so it’s great to see Dundee as a continuous ad for Australia.” And he hasn’t hung up his barbecue tongs yet.
O’Sullivan doesn’t rule out his successor using Hogan in yet more official campaigns.
“To be honest, Hoges is my idol,” O’Sullivan says. “I grew up watching his shows and loved his Leo Wanker character [from The Paul Hogan Show]. I actually wanted to be a game show host because of Hoges – never dreamt I’d become head of Tourism Australia.
“Meeting Hoges was the next best thing.”
Most of the Paul Hogan-led campaigns were squarely aimed at the United States, given Americans comprise one of Australia’s top source markets.
The 2018 Dundee campaign was screened for the US Super Bowl.
Even with Hogan’s muscled, knife-wielding, croc-teeth-hatted appeal, however, the American market has been soft of late, with only 0.9 per cent year-on-year growth.
But that doesn’t stop Hoges being our No. 1 salesman: “I’m always excited to show the world what Australia has to offer,” Hogan says.