“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)





08 June 2013


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?


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.


Bob Colman said...

As usual, all the would be that could be and advertising wankers reckon it's a crap adv. Probably because they didn't get the gig. Well, being in the demographic who doesn't mind a bit of Nick Cave and occasionally has a bit of money to spend on vino it does it for me!

ghostriders said...

You'll get to see the true quality of Adelaide's advertising copywriters in the responses here, Whitey.

Anonymous said...

Clare Valley anyone?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments in the article, including yours Whitey. Ho hum. Yawn. From what I know of the Barossa this ad does nothing for it and if visitors go to the region they will be disappointed in many ways. I've not had the chance to see any women rolling in the dirt but on my next trip up that way I will surely keep an eye out.

Anonymous said...

This advert didn't inspire any of us at all to make another trip to the Barossa! Last time we visited the Barossa it was an expensive visit with very little wine or purchases.

This past Queens Birthday weekend our question was, Go somewhere in SA or across the border? We decided on Mildura/Vic & Trentham/NSW! Weather was great, sun shine every day, not that I would blame those showery days that Barossa has in comparison, just saying that this weekend, across the border was a better choice.

Wine was reasonably priced and we visited several wineries, Oak Valley Estates, Trentham Estate, smaller boutique wines and a good time was had by all.

No eerie music to be heard or a blood hand anywhere to be seen.

Sharon, Karen, Darren, Wayne

Philip White said...

check the response of the ad writer and kwp! creative director, James Rickard (click on the link below the cartoon above, or use this : http://indaily.com.au/opinion/2013/06/11/a-defence-of-the-barossa-ad-by-its-writer/ :

"Before I go on to answer some of the questions raised and rebuff the more flimsy and uninformed criticisms of the ad, I should declare my involvement and my credentials.

"I am Creative Director of Adelaide’s own KWP! Advertising."

sunyata said...

The difference is, the KI sea shanty spot really works - because everything depicted, except for the terrific little Maurice Sendak fantasy of the kid on a stormy sea, is accessible. Physically and emotionally, it is what can happen to real people when they experience the Island. The Barossa pictures are great, but the experience depicted is all on the wrong side of the fence.

out-of-towner said...

Well that’s all fine, James. I really have no problem with the things on the screen. But unlike the KI version, it is not about accessibility. The what-we-see-and-what-we imagine effect matters. I applaud you in fact for breaking the pattern. I would have too. Covering off the ‘real’ meaning of the song is something else, and too late to say. There is no use saying what other track could have been used, because the pictures were gathered and cut with the one you used in mind. Another track would have resulted in different pictures, or at least a different cut. It is a near thing, but it will only matter if the people who respond to that imagery, sound and pix, go to the Barossa.

bAdMan said...

Ho Hum.

Rickard is right … we will see.

‏@panda9d said...

Snowtown reference seems fair to me. The dark shots lit by flashlight give the feeling of the discovery of a murder scene. Actually, if that wasn't the intention, I'd love to know the motivation behind those shots with that song.

‏@zdog_1 said...


next time the ad is on TV, it'll have a scrolling ticker "for further information or clarification visit http://www.kwp.com.au

I find with marketing if one has to EXPLAIN one's creative, then it's missed the mark. Unless the ad comes with a handbook.

Dilbert Fuchs said...

At least Rusty got the girl in Hammers Over The Anvil. Horses, too!


From Under A Rock said...

Red Right Hand

by Nick Cave

Take a litle walk to the edge of town
Go across the tracks
Where the viaduct looms,
like a bird of doom
As it shifts and cracks
Where secrets lie in the border fires,
in the humming wires
Hey man, you know
you're never coming back
Past the square, past the bridge,
past the mills, past the stacks
On a gathering storm comes
a tall handsome man
In a dusty black coat with
a red right hand

He'll wrap you in his arms,
tell you that you've been a good boy
He'll rekindle all the dreams
it took you a lifetime to destroy
He'll reach deep into the hole,
heal your shrinking soul
Hey buddy, you know you're
never ever coming back
He's a god, he's a man,
he's a ghost, he's a guru
They're whispering his name
through this disappearing land
But hidden in his coat
is a red right hand

You ain't got no money?
He'll get you some
You ain't got no car? He'll get you one
You ain't got no self-respect,
you feel like an insect
Well don't you worry buddy,
cause here he comes
Through the ghettos and the barrio
and the bowery and the slum
A shadow is cast wherever he stands
Stacks of green paper in his
red right hand

You'll see him in your nightmares,
you'll see him in your dreams
He'll appear out of nowhere but
he ain't what he seems
You'll see him in your head,
on the TV screen
And hey buddy, I'm warning
you to turn it off
He's a ghost, he's a god,
he's a man, he's a guru
You're one microscopic cog
in his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by
his red right hand

He'll extend his hand, real slowly for a shake
You'll see it coming toward you, real slowly for a shake
Grabbing at your peril buddy cause you know you ain't
getting near much as he will take.
He's mumbling words you can't understand
He's mumbling words behind his red right hand.

MERLIN said...

I think KWP! is crazy buying into the criticism. 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 Rickards, 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.

Gwyneth said...

Merlin - I'm with you!

Anonymous said...

Your all being silly. It's just an ad about a pretty good place. But the great pictures could be just about anywhere in SA. Its the same as the ads for Victoria and Dayelsford and the southern vales adsf with the girl with the chair on her head and its the same girl. Is there only one visitor to all these wine regions. Just sayin. Jen

faded orangiste said...

were you a rajneeshee whitey

pinhead said...

are we not men? we are devo!

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