For anyone who noticed that South Australian travel destination Kangaroo Island has been trending on Twitter lately, the ABC program Media Watch has revealed the reasoning behind it: celebrities are being paid to promote the island through tweets.
According to Media Watch, the organisation is paying celebrities such as Australian chef Matt Moran, singer Shannon Noll, and TV performer Sophie Falkiner $750 plus GST to write a positive, personal message about the island in an effort to increase tourism. The posts are rather simple – Falkiner’s asked her followers whether they’d visited the island because she was considering taking her family there – and though none hashtagged the tourism organisation, they’re also not lying about having visited the island if they have, in fact, never stepped foot onto its sandy shores.
While the ABC program berated the South Australian Tourism Commission for its marketing ploy and questioned the ethics behind it in its 23 April broadcast, the South Australian organisation’s actions are far from anything groundbreaking in the marketing world.
“This is a typical product placement strategy that is emerging throughout the online world and we are talking full advantage of it as a viable media channel,” SA Tourism Commission marketing and communications director David O’Loughlin told Media Watch. "I don't think it's dishonest... There are lots of forms of product placement and it's been happening for decades, in radio and in television. What we’re seeing is a natural progression of this concept into social media.”
He certainly has a point. In January, New York Magazine ran a story about celebrities with a high number of followers who get paid to tweet about certain companies – and the figures were far above the $750 price point for a KI tweet:
· Kim Kardashian, 14 million followers: $10,000, for companies like Shoedazzle.com.
· Snoop Dogg, 8 million followers: $8,000 per tweet.
· Paula Abdul, 2.3 million followers: $5,000 per tweet.
· Whitney Port, 856,000 followers: $2,500 per tweet.
· Charlie Sheen, 7 million followers: $50,000 per tweet, for companies like Internships.com.
Regardless of whether Kim actually shops on Shoedazzle or Charlie was really looking to “hire a #winning intern with #TigerBlood” as his tweet said, the strategy was hugely successful: the post generated 450,000 clicks in 48 hours, drove 1 million visits to Internships.com, attracted 82,148 internship applications, and #tigerbloodintern became a worldwide trending hashtag. “Consumers react positively to organic authentic messaging,” said Ad.ly CEO Arnie Gullov-Singh to New York Magazine. Ad.ly is a Los Angeles- based company that connects businesses to celebrities via social media for endorsement purposes.
As John Baker, managing partner at Adelaide-based advertising firm KWP!, stressed to Mumbrella, “If we were to recruit everyday Aussies, that would be misleading. But we’re using celebrities to start conversations, and celebrities are commercial brands in their own right.”
In this ever-evolving social world, let’s all take our favourite celebrities’ advice with a grain of salt and in this case, do our own research on travel destinations. Ironically, Business Review Australia’s ‘Business Travel’ section will feature a closer look at Kangaroo Island in its upcoming June issue – and Matt Moran is in no way affiliated. Stay tuned!