Going too far? The most controversial tourism video ads

Going too far? The most controversial tourism video ads

Here's a quick roundup of the most eyebrow-raising tourism drives in recent years, with a strong showing from the antipodes

Denmark: Danish mother seeking

VisitDenmark’s attempt to go viral features a very blond young woman cradling a baby who she identified as the product of a one night stand with a tourist. “I don’t know where you’re from and I don’t even remember your name,” she said and told the daddy to write to her. It was later revealed to be a hoax, and that the single mum was portrayed by a Danish actress. But not before hordes of netizens commented to show their support.

So what exactly does this ad promote? That you can “lure fast, blond Danish women home without a condom,” as a sociologist pointed out?

VisitDenmark manager Dorte Kiilerich begged to differ: “We're telling a nice and sweet story about a modern responsible woman, that lives in a free society and takes responsibility for her choices,” she tells Politiken. Huffington Post user Maderous said: “It worked on me, I've already booked my flight to Denmark. Good stuff.” 

Sweet story or no, the video was pulled by VisitDemark five days after it was posted, during which it attracted well over 800,000 views.


Air New Zealand: Cougar sex ad

What better way is there to promote an airline than to poke fun at the desperate mating antics of single mature women? None, apparently to the folks at Air New Zealand, who made a gleeful mockumentary about cougars on the prowl to promote submissions for an airline photograph competition.

“The cougar: too old to be your girlfriend, too young to be your mother. The cougar is known predominately for its curious diet, starving itself on sparse vegetation during the day then hunting large slabs of meat at night,” a deep male voice rumbles in the video, Discovery channel-style. 

“Eventually the young male is dragged off to the cougar's inner city apartment, where it will be cruelly made to listen to Enya, or possibly the Eurythmics.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the ad will leave cougars and rights groups seething. A rape prevention group told The Age that they received complaints from male rape survivors who were nonplussed about their situation being reduced to a joke, while some mature ladies have taken “some offense” to it. About 60 of those who weren’t signed up for the contest. 

Australia: “So where the bloody hell are you?” TVC

In 2006 Tourism Australia created mixed -- but mostly bad -- feelings abroad with the now infamous A$180 million “Where the bloody hell are you?” tourism drive. The TV spot has service industry types from all around the country telling the camera they’re preparing for someone’s arrival, and ends with bikini-clad model Lara Bingle at a beach, saying “So where the bloody hell are you?” 

At the mention of the words “bloody hell” government and TV censors all around the world went berserk. The United Kingdom’s Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre banned the TV spot (a move that they later reversed) and pulled the ad off highway billboards. Canadian regulators pulled it off the air for the world “hell” and promoting ‘unbranded alcohol consumption,” and Singapore censors did away with “bloody hell” altogether, replacing it with a tepid “So where are you?”

Ironically, the hubris didn’t amount to much. Visitor numbers from key Aussie tourism countries dropped after the ad was aired, and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pronounced the ad a “rolled gold disaster.”

Australia: There’s nothing like Australia

We’re guessing Visit Australia is deeply scarred by their “bloody hell” drive, since what follows is a Paul Hogan-evoking singsong campaign that had critics and the general public jeering.

The “There’s nothing like Australia” TV spot features a montage of Australians at various tourist landmarks singing slightly off-key to a tune that would fit nicely in a Disney cartoon. The video won’t be launched globally until the middle of this month, but is already attracting its share of haters.

"Why do we have to portray ourselves as a nation of backward bogans stuck in a timewarp on the global stage?” Mumbrella user LijaJ said. “The world is going to think there is not one person in Australia who can sing,” complained another user Nikki.

Air New Zealand: Bodypaint Ad

Leave it to Air NZ to produce yet another envelope-pushing ad in rapid succession.

Their salacious “nothing to hide” campaign features their very fit crew members going about their routine duties in nothing but body paint, to the passenger’s scandalized delight. Airline CEO Rob Fyfe also made an appearance in the ad and was named New Zealand’s sexiest businessman by netizens. Air New Zealand later extended their bodypaint campaign to their in-flight safety videos.

Some passengers, however, found the nudity in the ad offensive. "The last thing I want to see when I fly is some fat Air NZ flight attendant's rear end," Stuff.co.nz quoted one customer as saying.

Former CNNGo staff writer Tiffany Lam produced and scripted current affairs documentaries and was a reporter for a local English newspaper before making the brave, brave decision to write about things she’s actually interested in.

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