The NSW Government is facing a hostile backlash to its “offensive and misleading advertising campaign” aimed at attracting visitors back to the state after years of drought and the recent devastating bushfires across many regions.
The Bug understands thousands of complaints have been lodged with various bodies charged with ensuring truth in advertising following the weekend launch of the campaign that saw a four-page wraparound of the Saturday edition of The Sydney Morning Herald (right).
Complaints are believed to have been lodged with Ad Standards Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Fair Trading Australia and, to show the depths of the displeasure, 2GB’s Alan Jones.
The NSW Government and its tourism agency visitnsw.com could face fines into the millions of dollars if the complaints are investigated and upheld.
Branded NOW’S THE TIME TO LOVE NSW, with the LOVE shown as a heart formed out of the fingers of two hands touching, (see main image), the campaign asks for people to make their own heart – using hands or, for example, draw one in the sand – take a photo and upload it to social media.
At first glance, the tourism campaign appears slick and compelling.
NSW needs a hand, it says. Use your hands to show your love.
And after you’ve created and shared a love heart, plan a trip to nsw via visitnsw.com/love-nsw.
All good stuff blended together under a helping hand image, according to insiders The Bug spoke to, including tourism industry experts, advertising gurus and Russel Howcroft and Scott Morrison. So why the anger?
“It’s a load of bullshit,” said one South Coast resident who lost her pottery and art galley business when fire ripped through her seaside village on New Year’s Eve.
Asking not to be named, she said: “Have you seen the photos in the ad? The front page looks like some part of the Great Dividing Range in pristine condition with lush green forests running up its escarpments and untouched timbered areas covering its ridges.
‘If it’s the Blue fucking Mountains it’s got to be a fucking file pix superimposed behind the actor. Everyone knows the Blue Mountains are a charred mess.
“The big spread inside shows a bloke doing the hands-heart thing with lush timber country behind him and green paddocks.
“Why wouldn’t he look happy? Those pastures look like they could run a hundred sheep a hectare.
“And cop the sheila whose South Coast vineyards look like they’ve never had a whiff of fire smoke drift over them ever.
“She’ll have a vintage for the next half a dozen years. So she needs tourists flocking to her fucking cellar door? I have mates with vineyards who have lost everything. I find it offensive and misleading.”
A grocery store owner in another devastated village nearby backed those sentiments.
“My store was spared but turnover is down 80 per cent over the crucial holiday period,” he said.
“There are thousands of small business owners in devastated coastal and regional towns across NSW who need people to come and stay with us, buy some grocery supplies and petrol, eat in our cafes and pubs.
“So the sentiments in the ad are fair enough.
“So why the fuck would the government be asking people to go visit these lucky uncharred bastards in areas the fires did not touch?”