|Here's the author offering a white balance (not to take his name too lightly) to camera at Steingarten about 1988. This is beneath the bare red hills that reminded Colonel William Light of a similar site, Barrosa, in Spain, causing him to name the beautiful South Australian valley Barossa. We were making the first serious promo film to push Australian wine into the UK, at about the same time as the author interrupted Orlando men removing the vineyard, and had that stopped. KWP!'s new Barossa ad, with the music of Nick Cave, includes a shot of Steingarten too.|
Nick Cave's rosso hand on bar
New KWP! tv ad draws blood
So how much red will it sell?
by PHILIP WHITE
33,000 hits over ten days for a new Nick Cave clip? Hardly a viral success? It's just over 69,000 now, which must mean something.
South Australia Tourism’s choice of local advertising agency KWP looked very shiny when they released the Kangaroo Island commercial with its raw sea shanty soundtrack. Barely a bad word was uttered other some some appropriate hissies when it became clear government had paid certain celebs to Tweet about it. People even went to Kangaroo Island.
Different story for the new Barossa one. Nick Cave’s gothic chant about a bloke hiding his bloody hand under his coat seemed strangely inappropriate, coinciding as it did with those horrid television images of a barbaric murderer covered in his victim’s blood waving a butcher’s cleaver around the streets of London.
But that was simply bad luck. It’s the rest of the discussion around this Barossa ad which could surely have been averted. I mean you might suspect they’d hoped for some controversy, but methinks they didn’t quite aim to split public opinion so messily as they’ve done.
“With a grade that reduces the vivid vibrancy of SA to the dreariness of a wet week in Windemere, a music track that oozes more misery than the blood of the hand in the song and a storyline that feels like the last supper before Christ's crucifixion, it's a wonder anybody would willingly travel to the land of Snowtown, with this telling affirmation of its dark and deeply disturbing side,” went one comment on the adland website Campaign Brief.
“Seems like a sad place to go,” said another. “I've never been to the Barossa and now I'm sure I don't want to go. It looks so damn depressing,” went another. Then “Too dark guys. Doesn't make me want to go there at all. Takes me back to Wolf Creek! Hanging meat on a hook? really!!!!”
And again: “It's a really nice little piece of film, but it's not an ad to encourage people to visit SA... maybe only the Snowtown murder scene. People don't go on holidays to feel melancholy, it's supposed to make you feel good ... this evokes nightmares and murderous tendencies. I'd rather go to the Gold Coast.”
To be a bit more specific: “There will be blood . . . some wine, fowl, baked goods, and gothic looking pioneers from another era, but mostly blood, and that old time religion. If you're a fan of murder tourism, or you just want to get into the spirit of the long departed and the deeply mystical, this creative group of people has definitely put the Barossa on the map for you, a must visit, a must bleed. Love to see the look on the faces of the folks at Penfolds and Torbreck, St. Halletts and Turkey Flat when they realise what their tourism board did with the money, not to mention the Bad Seeds tune they'll all be whistling as they tend to the vineyards.”
And these all popped up on a site aimed straight at advertising industry insiders.
Bring Out Yer Dead added: “Wine isn't what it once was as a business enterprise, nor the tourism associated with the wineries, so maybe this murder tourism thing will take off. The ghouls still need a place to stay and a good meal, so the hotels and restaurants should be fine. Maybe that was the brief?”
Sounding suspiciously like one of McLaren Vale’s Scarce Earthers, KWP’s creative director James Rickard observed: "Two things set this region apart from all other wine districts. The people and the dirt. It's a very tight knit community of passionate wine and food artisans and their connection with the unique soil that combines to create such exceptional products. It's that relationship we wanted to capture.”
Tight knit, see? These tightly knit communities are also the ones that remain tight lipped when the press savages arrive to take photographs of the blood.
My good friend Julian Castagna, winemaker, spent most of his life making extravagant ads for movie theatres. He was a highly-respected director.
“After a day seeding a cover crop to help feed the soil, I was confronted, low on the horizon by an enormous full moon,” he said. “It was breathtaking. Then I saw the ad. I didn't find the story told breathtaking and I wondered why because clearly they spent a lot of money.
“What do I think? I think it's tourist porn, in the same way as Nigella Lawson is food porn. I think there will be those that will like it and even think it amazing, and perhaps it is -- it's certainly a montage of many beautiful images -- but I don't think it has an idea. Perhaps it did in its inception but the maker (probably the director) wanted to show off and made a pop video.
“Having my advertising hat on I don't believe it will sell wine. It may bring people to the Barossa but I wonder if it contradicts the very ‘idea’ that is the Barossa? The idea that has been communicated fantastically well over the last 20 years. Whatever I think of the wines I often use the Barossa as an example of how an area communicates who they are and why it would be enjoyable to go there. I think that film confuses the story.”
“I actually thought it was a Nick Cave sound alike,” another film-making friend admitted. “Pastiche of a pastiche. Sort of realised later I was aware of the song. Whatever it does for tourism, it is a Nick Cave track and it is now on YouTube. That means KWP have effectively delivered an international campaign to the client that will cost effectively nothing. Any Cave fans in Germany, Sweden, France, UK, US, Iceland, with the dough, might think about trying the Barossa. It could well be in July and August, their holidays, our bleakest hour. All that is interesting, but I still think they missed it.
“Most of the non-people images used,” my friend continued, “are exactly the same sort subject matter that has been used forever to promote the Barossa – grapes, wine, landscape, food, and an experience of some sort – all of it bent toward a well art directed Maggie Beer book. Nice pictures. The only thing missing is Germans. Not a single bit of Sutterlin script. Is that a problem? Not for me because I can work around it. The people-images are where it gets interesting, because this is where the people on the screen need to either mirror the audience or their fantasies. And all this is underpinned by the song. What might it mean to an audience?
“The strange subtext of the song,” the conversation flowed, “which may actually be a good song, colours everything – this is important because a good commercial should hit a target market. It should say ‘we understand you’. Looks like a new target market to me. And possibly not a big or very mobile one. Anyone who longs to go on a holiday that enlivens the tone of that song has to be pretty disaffected. Who are these people and do they represent an economy? Do these reflections generate action? Will people go?
“The young adults that I know, as depicted in this thing, are mostly broke. It costs a lot of money to holiday in Australia, especially if you only hang out in paddocks when you get there. One essential problem with the Barossa thing is that the experiences and places are not realistically accessible. If you lit a huge bonfire anywhere in the Barossa you’d probably get arrested. If you climbed into someone’s paddock, they’d be there in a flash to kick you out. Anyway the ones with money go to New York or somewhere, and stand outside the Chelsea Hotel. But the death-wish stuff here all feels a bit dated. Dated like Nick Cave. Caravan tourists are dated too, of course, and they have decided they don’t want them. The Nick Cave people probably like hotels. Good for business. Backpackers don’t spend real money. Bad for business. But would you, as an angsty urbanite romantic, travel 400 miles from Melbourne or 900 miles from Sydney and then spend a lot of money to confirm that life is dire? We get that on the news on from our stereo for free.
“Reflecting on the true nature of past violence gets you to a pretty sticky place in Australia, and it is not romantic. The ghosts are not Europeans longing for freedom in nature. There was other work to be done before that. If you reflect on Australia through the prism of violence you hit a wall that is not being shown here.”
Thanks to all those whose words I’ve used above. To finish with a few of my own: I asked Maynard James Keenan if he’d do the McLaren Vale ad. He’s in like Flynn. It could be more along the lines of Indigo Children.
To read James Rickard's response in InDaily, click here. James wrote the Barossa ad. To read about McLaren Vale's tourism advertisements, click here.