“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





21 June 2013


Outside of the wall : one of the few wine-related images in the new KWP! tourism advertisement for the Barossa Valley.  "This isn't an ad about wine," says writer and creative director James Rickard.  "This is about tourism."
Why not mention the reality?
Top adman defends good work
Strange denial in top ad brief

James Rickard, the creative director at KWP! advertising, has raised a few fascinating issues in his zealous defence of his work writing the handsomely gothic Barossa tourism advertisement featuring contentious music by Nick Cave and discussed here recently.

“This isn’t an ad about wine,” Rickard wrote of the taxpayer-funded advertisement with what he calls the “dark and sinister” Nick Cave soundtrack. 

“This is about tourism.”

Rickard correctly points out that “the vast majority of people who do not reside under a rock” already know that the Barossa is a wine region.  He also reminds us that the ad shows wine robustly glugging into a glass “instead of a droplet being delicately poured.”

Somewhere in here lies the essence of our community’s refusal to face various glaring issues.  It is not Rickard’s invention, of course, but something I would expect to have been  an intrinsic part of his brief. Either way, it is most uncharacteristic for the advertising world to send a writer or creative director out into the flak triggered by the professional reverence they show their brief.

“I think KWP! is crazy buying into the criticism,” Merlin wrote on DRINKSTER’s comment box. “At least they should be pointing out to conservative people and insiders that the campaign is not aimed at them. Someone should be defending poor Mr Rickard, who should never have opened his mouth, or been allowed to. They should be looking after him. Someone should release the survey they based the pitch on. Never answer your critics with the meaning of your work. Let your work do its work. If you have the nerve, tell why it is going to work, don’t defend the artistry of the pictures – make fools of us by showing who the market is and then showing us the sales figure later.”

As Bacchus and Pan both surely know, the Barossa is a very important vignoble.  At some stage or another of its manufacture, more of Australia’s wine passes through there than any other region.  It is the home of some of our biggest wine refineries, as well as being “an extraordinary community of passionate artisans,” as Rickard makes clear.


Between these notions of cute ivy-covered bluestone cellars and huge steel ethanol factories; between those who live under or on top of rocks and those who enjoy four walls and a roof but would love to afford to roll in the dirt on their holidays; between the ad’s concern lying more with tourism than wine, showing wine “robustly glugging” but only once, is where South Australia’s philosophical struggle between dry and wet continues to squirm.

While Rickard’s work certainly does a fine job of promoting the Barossa’s capacity to roll in the dirt, shoot rabbits, pluck pheasants and tear Eleni's stunning bread to bits, it coincides with top wine industry heavies belatedly struggling to cope with the revelations that big Barossa factories export wine in enormous plastic bladder packs to be bottled at the other end of the Earth.  

It was hardly news to regular readers of columns like this, but earlier this year, BloombergBusinessweek discovered that Accolade (Hardy’s), Jacob’s Creek and Treasury all engage in bladder-packing on a grand scale.  It's not just the silver pillows and chrome handbags which  contain nearly half the wine consumed annually in Australia, but to slash costs, the Australian wine industry now ships half its export product in huge 24,000 litre plastic bags inside shipping containers rather than in glass bottles.  "Thirsty for the latest buzz on business innovations?” BBW teased beneath the single word headline "Refined."

“After the 10,000-mile journey, the wine is bottled at a plant next to a scrap merchant a two-hour drive from London,” David Fickling wrote.

The wine industry PR boffins seemed to discover this relevation coincident with the release of the Barossa advertisement and went into a cold sweat hoping our foreign rivals won't  turn it into a billboard campaign.  At the same time we had Rickard telling us “the people we are talking to … shun vacuum-sealed packaged food from supermarket shelves and the over-processed falseness that abounds in their everyday lives.”

This see-sawing of contradictions lies deep in the community soul.

On the one hand, we have Deputy Premier John Rau struggling to contain dangerous drunks and limit the damage they cause with more restrictive trading legislation.  On the other, there’s Gail Gago, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, as well as being Minister for Regional Development, and Tourism Minister Leon Bignell, both diligently striving to ensure our great wine regions prosper.

We have Adelaide City Council moving to restrict public drinking with the extension of the contentious and racist Dry Zones clashing with large taxpayer-funded public celebrations of food and wine.  In the same way, we have ever harder and more punitive driving laws, and yet stage violently intrusive taxpayer-sponsored V8 car races through the streets of the city each year, as if to provide our young with an extravagant 300km/hr example of what not to do, the whole shebang involving a great deal of public alcohol consumption by white people.

The template for this strangeness has long been part of South Australian culture.  It’s small in comparison to the speedfest, but we have long managed to combine shooting firearms with beer consumption at the annual German Shützenfest, which was first held in 1865.  The SA German Association claims this is “the largest folk festival in the Southern Hemisphere,” and that is celebrated because “good marksmanship was essential in the defence of medieval towns.”

German Club, Flinders Street, Adelaide, decorated to celebrate Hitler's fiftieth birthday ... Once one starts making vague pictorial reflections to capitalise on the darker side of South Australia's past, one opens the door for reflections more vivid and serious than one may have intended. This extends particularly to white Australia's awkwardness over issues of indigenous people drinking as much as many whites do, and leads many to wonder just what happened to the original inhabitants of places like the Barossa.

Good marksmanship was important to the early white settlers of these parts for very different reasons.

I have no doubt that Rickard’s beautiful, scary little movie does a good job of pleasing the client, the South Australian Tourism Commission, and there is no doubt that it pleases those Barossa folks of Cave’s age who covet a cooler image than the lederhosen and low-neck dirndls that stifled their past.  My ongoing bleat is for a better public discussion on the nature of this wonderful part of the world – I mean South Australia - and its inability to face its own inherent realities and the darker tones of its past.

Rather than taking the opportunity to dive constructively into an important debate about our community, our past, our money, and the sorts of people we should spend it on attracting, to where and why, I would prefer to think Rickard was actually advised to defend his company’s work in response to my piece.  This is indicative of the entire community’s inability to engage generously in open discussion.    

And I mean proper public debate, not the abbreviated SMS gibberish of the digichat fizz he derides, or his accusations of me showing “laughable naïvete”, “schoolboy oversight” and a “complete lack of understanding of social media and its use."

I have no envy for his awkward position.  Trapped between wets and dries?  Hide under a rock.  Trapped between the hard-core Liberal Barossa and a new Labor Tourism Minister?  Uh-huh.  Trapped between the Barossa and the McLaren Vale winemakers after being convinced that the Barossa’s “fertile soil [is] responsible for the best wine in the country,” but before he’s given the chance to bid for the next McLaren Vale advertising campaign?  Dead Man’s Gulch.  And it’s sad that to justify his work, Rickard must claim that it is “a completely new and unique form of tourism advertising. We have moved far beyond the clichéd and predictable form of destination marketing and into the world of experience marketing.”

Experiential tourism was the big thing in the Barossa of the ’80s, when I lived there.  Its invention coincided with sensible Barossadeutscher families swapping their smoky, damp mud and stone cottages from the 1800s for clean, comfortable, cream brick veneers with reverse cycle air conditioning. By the time the experiential and cultural tourists arrived, there were hardly any old stone walls left for them to peer over.  And to keep those hardworking locals employed and prosperous, the giant steel and concrete refineries and factories were then being approved and constructed.

So what’s my solution?  Better public discussion of the issues, for starters.  More mature understanding of who we are, why we are here, and what we actually do.  How many drugs we want to take, including grape-based ethanol.  Why we would spend big luring visitors to the country's biggest winery region whilst talking as if we didn't really expect them to partake of much of the product that region exists to make, promote and sell.  Given that our elected representatives seem unable to ease these contradictions by constructive discourse, it may help if we had an open alternative that is not a brief annual government-run gabfest chaired by a FIFO teetotaller like Phillip [sic] Adams. 

So here’s a small start.  I’m not talking about mob rule in the letting of government advertising contracts, but an inspiring method of easing the stifling overall community feeling of never being heard or believed.

Just one meek suggestion: it’s far too long since the old public Speaker’s Corner in Botanic Park closed down.  The new Tarntanyangga/Victoria Square should include a permanent public fireplace so those who have met there for millennia can once again do so with impunity and dignity. 

George Street Sydney, 1830.  Adelaide's Dry Zones have simply forced many troubled and displaced Original people to drink in more secluded areas where they are out of sight and less likely to attract the sort of social work and health attention government promised in exchange for its imposition of Dry Zones in 2001.

When the Dry Zone goes, a large permanent forum should be built so we can sit back and discuss stuff openly, just as was done on Melbourne’s Yarra Bank or is done in London’s Hyde Park.  Right in the middle of our fair city.

Whether we live under rocks or not. 

But here we could also buy a beer or a Barossa Shiraz from a chestnut smoker’s barrow, pie cart or ice cream stall.  The conditions of the vendor's license would include the usual prohibition on selling alcohol to anyone overly intoxicated.  The people of this colony - originals and newcomers - could meet there whenever we liked to discuss such issues, and be open about how much of the land that we took from the Original Australians is now proudly devoted to the production of wine and beer which they must hide to drink.

We should be sitting together there in equality and fraternity.  As Monsignor David Cappo, the former Premier's Social Inclusion Commissioner reminded us relative to all this in November 2011, we   "must engage with vulnerable people and support them … There should be integrated services working for them, including housing, mental health, and drug and alcohol services."

If I had a lazy $6 million of someone else's money to spend luring tourists to a wine region without really mentioning wine, I couldn't help thinking about spending a similar amount luring into the open those who have to hide to drink it to avoid being thrown in the can.

That’d be an experience to advertise.  The whole dam mob of us sitting there in the Square with a snack and a drink, discussing stuff like people once discussed.  If the brief was honest and true in its goals, I'd suggest we hire KWP! to do the job.  They're obviously very very good at it.  But this time, we'd have to make it very clear that the client was us, and not somebody who'd prefer to keep wine out of the picture.

For a comparison regional food and lifestyle advertisement, check this one from Tassie!

Experiential tourism : the secret Mettwurst Limbo ritual of the High Barossa at McLean's Farm : it's very easy to portray the most enjoyable parts of the Barossa without avoiding mention of the fact that the whole glorious joint exists to grow, make, mature, promote, enjoy and sell delicious wine ... photo Milton Wordley


BordaLina said...


Anonymous said...

Well done, Whitey.

Roy Bean said...

Is government scared of public liability? Smells like lawmen to me.

Anonymous said...

That German Club photo is fricken shivery is that fair dinkum?

Anonymous said...

Can't help throwing one of yours back at you here Whitey. It fits real good.....

the biggest cliché in most rooms

the biggest cliché in most rooms
is the jerk who first mentions
the elephant in the corner
while all the guests stare lovingly
at the empty corner
imagining a jumbo they could pat
the cliché steals the silver and scats

philip white

@maxallenwine said...

Once again I bow - as we all should - to @whiteswine … No-one in Oz wine speaks with such fierce, steely precision.

@Capitalwines said...

I absolutely love that ad. It shows powerful connection to the land. 113,000+ hits on youtube already. amazing

@KarinaDambergs said...

I was very entertained by this article by @whiteswine although I will wear a dirndl on all possible occasions.

Anonymous said...

What happened to Epsilon on our flag? It's escaping!


Castronomer said...

Clear and precise,but I bet they don't get your trying to help.

Anonymous said...

Frustrates me enough to have an opinion. $6 million frustrates me more....
Couldn't believe it came out of the same camp as KI campaign. Art for art's sake with or without Nick Cave track.Have read Rickard's rebuff and sorry but it doesn't work on the big screen (cinema) either - was really hoping it did.
Just wondering out of the 113,000+ hits on Youtube how many of them have booked their trip?
Yes Rickard time WILL tell...

Philip White said...

Mr Rickard was on ABC891 with Peter Goers tonight saying the $6 million was more about buying screen time than production, but wouldn't be more specific as the information was confidential.

Philip White said...

PS: For a comparison ad, click on the link to the Huon salmon/lifestyle masterpiece at the bottom of my story.

Anonymous said...

It looks like Robert O'Callaghan diercted that movie. That's how he thinks the valley is. And Rockford. Big pretneding to be really little

from Just a grape grower

Anonymous said...

I like it. marries the songs words with imagery well.
but i am a nearly middle age white redneck dumb man plonker/winemaker wannabe and an avid nick cave liker
so i got no idea
Pete in the vale

Winsome said...

I have cashy friends in Melbourne (target market) age of Nick Cave (old) whose love of this ad really shocks me. I think his preacher act has tricked them. They now think the Barossa must be cool as shit. But they drink Pinot.