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Deep Dive

Brands after Covid: Content marketers signal big, bold and emotional push for 2021 – while average must die

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

9 November 2020 4min read

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

9 November 2020 4min read

Tourism Australia is preparing to go extra large as soon as border restrictions ease, says content head Anita Godbeer. Internationally we may yet see Matesong return for a second hurrah, while TA is also rethinking TV in a bid to do something a bit different. Meanwhile it has culled content to double down on quality, a strategy IAG's Zara Curtis strongly advocates, and which has seen engagement rates soar 60% for the insurer. Nine content supremo Adrian Swift also has a word or two for brands aiming to tap pent up demand for travel shows - which are booming.

“Last year on Instagram we did 880 posts. So far this year we've only done about 300. We've changed the sentiment and we've also looked at new content formats.

- Anita Godbeer, General Manager, PR, Social, Content, Tourism Australia.

 
Check out Fourcast episode three, from Mi3 supported by Nine, with IAG's Zara Curtis, Tourism Australia's Anita Godbeer and Nine's Adrian Swift below:
Internal affairs

Brands have had to make one or two pivots since Covid struck, through perhaps few as complete as that made by Tourism Australia.

Yet despite refocusing its efforts squarely on domestic tourism, international interest remains remarkably high, says Anita Godbeer General Manager - PR, Social, Content at Tourism Australia.

She says traffic to aus.com has fallen 20% this year – but that was expected following a content cull as part of a website overhaul – and it’s hardly a collapse, given the circumstances.

Meanwhile, “social has boomed”, says Godbeer, with audiences across all channels up more than 15% from 14 million in January to 16.2 million in October – with double digit engagement rates on channels such as Instagram, where Tourism Australia has 4.5m followers.

All things considered, says Godbeer, “we're actually doing quite well. I think everyone still loves to travel. Everyone's still dreaming.”

 

Less is more

To push more social traffic to aus.com, TA has switched up its content strategy, reducing output and focusing on quality.

“Last year on Instagram we did 880 posts. So far this year we've only done about 300. We've changed the sentiment and we've also looked at new content formats,” says Godbeer.

The shift is paying off, she says, while also driving more traffic to the broader tourism industry – which employs about 5 per cent of Australia’s workforce and needs all the help it can get.

Likewise TA has also restructured aus.com to focus on domestic tourism, something it has not done for eight years.

“We have a new road trips hub with great mapping functionality. We've got a Covid safety hub, looking at what you can do to keep safe, but also what borders are doing, whether opening or closing,” says Godbeer.

It has also relaunched on Youtube “which was a bit of a dumping ground for campaign assets”, Godbeer admits. In recent weeks most of its globally focused videos have racked up more than a million views, though its local city guide content could probably do with a push.

“PR pitching is really challenging at the moment because the world is distracted by Covid, the U.S. election, second waves in Europe. We have to think of a new way to get our message out there. So we want some really new creative concepts to break out of the travel category and peak people's interest in Australia in a new way.”

- Anita Godbeer, General Manager, PR, Social, Content, Tourism Australia.

Broadcast next?

While Tourism Australia paused TV spending at the start of the year, broadcast could well be next on the to do list. TA is acutely aware of the fight for attention it faces when international tourism resumes – and so wants to do something different.

“We need to break the mould. The environment, both domestically but certainly internationally when we go back out, is going to be fiercely competitive,” says Godbeer.

“PR pitching is really challenging at the moment because the world is distracted by Covid, the U.S. election, second waves in Europe. We have to think of a new way to get our message out there. So we want some really new creative concepts to break out of the travel category and peak people's interest in Australia in a new way.”

Unable to divulge details until terms are finalised, Godbeer says TA has been “pitched a lot of broadcast concepts,” and is “mulling a couple at the moment”.

“Getaway's ratings are the best they've been in years. We're still making travel guides, admittedly with difficulty, stopping every two weeks every time we cross a border. But it's interesting: people are still watching travel; they're still planning and dreaming. There's still a big market for that sort of stuff.”

- Adrian Swift, Head of Content Production and Development, Nine

How to integrate brands into TV shows

Nine’s Head of Content Production and Development, Adrian Swift, has also had a lot brands pitching concepts to him throughout covid. Sadly, most of them have revolved around “people Zooming from one place or another with a wobbly, washed-out shot that’s slightly out of focus,” he sighs. “So we’ve said no to all of that.”

But he agrees there is still very high interest in travel and tourism.

Getaway's ratings are the best they've been in several years. We're still making travel guides, admittedly with difficulty, stopping every two weeks every time we cross a border,” he adds. “But it's interesting: people are still watching travel; they're still planning and dreaming. There's still a big market for that sort of stuff.”

As such, Nine is deliberately bringing more beach and coastal locations to its formats so that viewers can ”live vicariously,” says Swift, “and that is completely deliberate”.

For brands that want to integrate with shows, the best examples are those that naturally align rather than try too hard to force a match, according to Swift.

“We create a mood and we create an environment. So does your [brand] story align with ours? We can shift our story, but if we can make those two stories align, then we've reached a happy place that firstly is really logical for the audience, and secondly makes your life and our lives so much easier.”

Kill, don’t fill: Only publish quality content

Zara Curtis, Director of Content & Customer Service at IAG, has previously admitted to being more of a ‘content killer’ than content creator. “It doesn’t make me popular,” she admits. But it is fundamental to a good content strategy.

“I mean kill don't fill. On owned channels, especially in social, the temptation is to just pump it out there and keep it at average. But resist, make it great, less is more,” she says. “You have to be a content curator and really know what not to do, because not everything's a good idea.”

IAG has applied that maxim during and post-Covid, concentrating on emotional storytelling and building out partnerships, says Curtis. She cites IAG’s work with Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, created in the aftermath of the bushfires, but revisited during Covid.

“We realised one of the saddest things about restrictions was that kids couldn't go on school excursions. So we created the first ever virtual school excursion with Dr. Chris Brown to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital,” says Curtis. “I think we had over 2 million views - the long form version is really amazing.”

The strategy is paying off: “On our own channels, we’ve seen engagement go up by 60%,” she adds.

“Kill don't fill. On owned channels, especially in social, the temptation is to just pump it out there and keep it at average. But resist, make it great, less is more.”

- Zara Curtis, Director of Content & Customer Service, IAG

The year ahead

For 2021, IAG has devised a 12-month plan that continues around its core pillars of “big emotional storytelling” with aligned brands and businesses. “Partnering with credible partners has never been more important,” says Curtis.

However, she says agility is baked into its strategy. “We have a plan, but we're not going to put it in the can and wait for a year and release it. That just won't work.”

Long-form content and “nurturing creativity” remain top of the agenda, says Curtis. “We have a responsibility to do that as a brand that can spend in the industry.”

For Tourism Australia, 2021 is all about timing, planning and agility. It has to be ready to go large internationally at just the moment – not an easy task given the uncertainty around border restrictions. A planner's nightmare, as Godbeer admits.

“We've got a strategy in place – there are pivots within that, but it's pretty clear what we need to do,” she says,

“We have a brand campaign ready to go specifically for New Zealand, when that sentiment is right, so that's great. We have a brand campaign ready for other markets as well - so we're actually a little bit ahead of the curve, we wanted to be ready for when things happen,” adds Godbeer.

And despite now treading unknown territory in terms of closed borders, “in a way it presents a huge opportunity for us to re-enter the market,” says Godbeer.

“The market's going to be cluttered. Most other markets are going to be open before us. So we need to go large and we need to do some really interesting things to reignite that consideration - and actual bookings to Australia.”

When that happens, don’t rule out a return for TA’s excellent but ill-fated Mateship ad, which lasted a week before being pulled last time out.

Can Tourism Australia really bring it back?

“I’d love to. I’m trying to seed that,” says Godbeer. “But we’ll see.”

Let's go. Click here to comment.

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

9 November 2020 4min read

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