The UK Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) has recently stopped the airing of a series of Australian television advertisements in Britain because they feature the word "bloody". The advertisements are aimed at promoting tourist visits to Australia and feature the statement "So where the bloody hell are you?"
The advertisements are part of an $180 million dollar advertising campaign put together by Tourism Australia for audiences in Britain, Germany, China, Japan, India and the US. The campaign is actually an example of viral marketing. Viral marketing seeks to reach a wide audience, sometimes using humour or a sense of bypassing censors, to encourage people to tell or email each about a product or website.
Tourism Australia managing director, Scott Morrison explains: "The campaign was designed to achieve cut-through and get people talking, especially online. After just two weeks, we've certainly achieved that. Already, we estimate that over 100,000 people in the UK have already viewed the ad online through our website www.wherethebloodyhellareyou.com and after the BACC decision this is only going to get better".
However while the use of a cutesy, old-fashioned, innocuous swear word is a calculated effort to garner publicity, the campaign includes a phrase that is far much more offensive, and unintentional, which seems to have gone unnoticed. One of the print advertisements (and an image on the website), featuring a picture of a pristine forest, states "We've fertilised the ferns, Had the garden watered, And pacified the Tasmanian Devil. SO WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU?"
The bad taste involved here may not be obvious unless you know something of what is happening to Tasmanian Devils and the controversy over the role of chemicals used by foresters in its demise. The devil is a smallish marsupial animal, complete with a pouch for its babies, that is not found living in the wild anywhere else in the world outside the island of Tasmania. It has long been extinct on mainland Australia.
The numbers of devils have been falling fairly dramatically since the late 1990s when they started getting an incurable facial cancer which prevents them from eating, so they starve to death. Populations have been reduced by 90 per cent in affected areas and the number of affected areas is increasing. For this reason the devils are becoming endangered.
Some argue that the chemicals used in forestry are contributing to the cancer. Others that the cancer is contagious and is spread when the devils bite each other.
Those who hypothesise that the devils are affected by chemicals point to aerial spraying of pesticides and herbicides - such as atrazine which causes tumours in rats - by foresters and their extensive use of 1080 as a poison. 1080 is used in Tasmania to kill some native animals, such as possums and wallabies, which damage young plants, and it is used extensively in forestry operations. Devils are not direct targets of the poison as they are carnivores but they often eat dead animals, including possums and wallabies and so are indirectly exposed to the poison.
Recently published research by Anne-Marie Pearse and Kate Swift from the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water & Environment (DPIWE), supports the hypothesis that the cancers are contagious and infectious cells are transferred to new animals when they bite each other during fights. Their findings have yet to be confirmed by DNA studies of the tumours.
The DPIWE, which employs them, is responsible for the permitting, control and supervision of 1080 use and for administering legislation covering aerial spraying of atrazine and other chemicals. Its 2005 Code of Practice for 1080 recognises that "Farmers and foresters frequently have a real need to reduce damage to pastures and crops by native browsing animals".
Naturally the forestry industry has hailed the publication by the DPIWE researchers as proof that their chemicals are not the cause of the cancers. However, even if it is subsequently proved that the cancers are contagious, it may well be that forestry chemicals have weakened the immune systems of the devils and made them vulnerable to cancers. It is highly unusual for cancers to be contagious in normal circumstances.
Given this ongoing controversy, the claim in the advertisements that the Tasmanian Devil has been "pacified" is not only offensive but reflects badly on an organisation that depends on Australia's natural flora and fauna to attract tourists.
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