Our story begins in 1984, when America first met Paul Hogan. A middle-aged Australian man who had the lean physique and laid-back nature of an aging surfer, Hogan starred in the first major Australia tourism marketing campaign aimed specifically at Americans. He made the country sound like one big beach party, and served up a parting promise that would be repeated ad nauseam for a generation. Everyone wanted that shrimp on the barbie.
Less than two years later, Hogan starred in Crocodile Dundee, a fun, cultural fish-out-of-water comedy that was many Americans’ first impression of Australia. It became the second highest-grossing film in the U.S. in 1986–just behind Top Gun, just ahead of Platoon. Which bring us to the 2018 Super Bowl, and the fake reboot called Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns, starring Danny McBride as Brian Dundee, and Chris Hemsworth as Wally Jr.
Given the stars involved and Hollywood’s current preoccupation with nostalgic 1980s IP, in the weeks before the big game, it was reasonable to think this thing might actually be real. Which is exactly what Tourism Australia and agency Droga5 was hoping for.
Droga5 creative director Chris Colliton says that since it was Hogan and Crocodile Dundee that really put Australia on the map for so many Americans, it was the perfect entry point. “It’s still what a lot of people reference when they think of Australia, and creatively, there really couldn’t be a more perfect time, considering how much Hollywood has embraced reboots,” says Colliton. “It just seemed like a perfectly believable story that Hollywood would do something this outlandish.”
The strategy was to roll out a teaser as if this was a real Hollywood production, aiming to attract earned media beyond the Super Bowl ad news cycle, then use the big game to tap into that hype, and finally, with people’s interest piqued, transition into a more traditional tourism content series highlighting the country’s food, beaches, and other highlights, still starring McBride and Hemsworth.
Hemsworth was the first big name on board, then the challenge was convincing Hogan, who still owns the rights to the Dundee character. Then they had to find their Brian Dundee.
“Chris is a huge Danny McBride fan and became the biggest proponent to have Danny involved,” says Colliton. “When we approached Danny with the idea, it was clear he was the absolute perfect fit.”
McBride says as soon as he saw the idea, he was in. “The narrative they were laying down really intrigued me, and I know even if I wasn’t involved in it, it’s something that would’ve got my attention. I definitely would’ve been curious to know what it was all about,” says McBride.
This is the biggest investment Tourism Australia has made in enticing the American market since Hogan’s heyday, and they’ve set some pretty ambitious goals to grow U.S. tourism expenditure by $800 million Australian ($640 million U.S.) by 2020. Chief marketing officer Lisa Ronsen says the Super Bowl was the perfect place to start. “We know there’s a lot of competition and noise around the Super Bowl, some fantastic work takes place there, but we wanted to try to cut through as a destination,” she says. “Not only do we think it’ll engage the American audience, but it takes what Americans already know about Australia from the ’80s and brings it into a modern Australia.”
“To me, that’s part of the fun about it, it seems like the best kind of marketing just gets people talking about it, having theories about it,” says McBride. “I liked that about this, that people would have to scratch their heads and think, ‘Is this just a really bad movie they’re doing?'”
Droga5 group strategy director Will Davie says the secrecy was all about squeezing as much as possible out of the marketing budget. “To get three bites out of the cherry, rather than one. We’ve really been carefully architecting the campaign so it’s not just a one-and-done Super Bowl ad gag,” says Davie. “It’s not a cheap investment to get a Super Bowl spot, and it’s taxpayer money, so we wanted to actually make sure we created something that would resonate in culture, gain some earned media attention that’s worth far more than the spend for the spot itself. If we could play on that intrigue a bit, tap into that reboot culture, then we’d get a lot more out of our budget.”
Despite digging the concept, McBride wasn’t prepared for it to be taken so seriously. “My only surprise was that some people would actually want that movie,” he laughs. “I thought for sure they would think Hollywood just lost its mind.”