By Yash Egami

Imagine a morning commute that involved walking barefoot on the beach. Your job? Feeding the fish, collecting mail, cleaning the pool and blogging about how beautiful the island is. Oh, and it comes with a free luxury apartment and a six-figure salary.

Sounds too good to be true? Not for Ben Southall, the Brit who became famous overnight for winning the “Best Job in the World” contest for Tourism Queensland. The ingenious integrated campaign to promote the islands in the Great Barrier Reef was created by CumminsNitro in South Brisbane and was the 2009 One Show Best of Show. And did it ever work: 34,648 applicants from 201 countries sent in 610 hours of video, had 6,849,504 visits over a period of 56 days and there were 47,548,514 page views with an average of 8.62 minutes spent on the site. We corresponded with joint creative director
Nancy Hartley from CumminsNitro to find out how it all came together to become such a phenomenon.

How did the idea of the “Best Job in the World” come about?
In January 2008, we received a brief from our client Tourism Queensland to create global awareness of The Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Although the Great Barrier Reef is a world-heritage listed natural wonder, the perception was that you visited it as a day-trip from the mainland. Globally, people were unaware that there were beautiful islands and resorts where you could actually stay and enjoy “life above” the Reef. And while we had plenty of beautiful footage of the region, we also had a $1.2 US million budget—so the use of traditional media was out of the question. We knew we needed a big idea that would engage people on an international level.

This of course was very exciting for us—I remember our planning director Darren McColl coming back to the agency and saying, “I’ve got the brief of the year.” We briefed three of our senior creatives—writer Merrin McCormick and art directors Cristian Staal and Ralph Barnett. Two weeks later the guys came back with three ideas—they were all good, but “Best Job” of course was a standout. It was such a pure idea—so simple and so aspirational that everyone who heard it immediately went, “That’s fantastic!”

The whole point was to create something that would make the brand newsworthy and engaging, as we would need to rely on people interacting with our website and spreading their content through social networks. The fact that this was a real job with a generous salary and one that ANYONE could apply for meant people could see this was more than a game of chance—you could actually pitch yourself to get “The Best Job in the World” as island caretaker on Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Did you ever expect that the contest would garner as much attention around the world as it did?
It had been decided to launch the campaign in the Northern Winter, so we had a full year to plan and execute everything we needed to do. Tourism Queensland’s international offices were briefed and onboard, media kits were prepared, the website was developed and the creative team spent at least 3 days every week working with the client to make sure everything was in place. We even had contingency plans in case it didn’t ignite as quickly as we had hoped and we all admit to butterflies the day before the campaign launched. So while we had extremely high hopes and had given this every chance to be a success, I don’t think anyone could have been prepared for the enormity and immediacy of the response.

It went viral from day one. My co-creative director James Burchill was on holiday in Brazil and immediately found it was being blogged in Portuguese. One of our junior art directors was in Italy talking to a little old man and when the man discovered he was from Australia, he opened the paper and pointed to “The Best Job” story. In the UK on day one, we were the fourth most visited website after Google UK, BBC and Facebook.

The footage we have collected for our case study means you can actually tell the whole story using news items from around the world.

When we look back at the initial video presentation the team put together to sell the idea “up the line,” it’s almost spooky. The idea and the details of how the campaign would work remained unchanged and everything we predicted would happen in that video did happen—albeit to an even greater extent than we could have dreamed.

Has the Great Barrier Reef seen a spike in tourists lately because of the campaign?
In the past, when people were planning an island holiday, they thought of Greece, the Bahamas, the Maldives. The purpose of this campaign was to create global awareness of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, and place them into the consideration set. So the goal is long term. Having said that, apparently Hamilton Island enquiries are up 80% and Wotif (an online hotel booking site) reports bookings for January to April up 40%. That’s great news in a tough market. And as the Whitsunday Islands Tourism CEO said on the weekend, “We no longer have to explain where we are.”

How does it feel to be named Best of Show at this year’s One Show?
We put together a list of winners since 2001, and that certainly is esteemed company we are keeping. Naturally, we are thrilled to see our campaign take its place alongside legendary work from agencies we admire. We are also extremely grateful to our client Tourism Queensland. The idea and the campaign remain unchanged since inception, and that took trust and partnership. Best of Show is also recognition that the best work in the world can come from anywhere in the world. As the campaign itself proved, globally there are no barriers when you can crack a universal insight.

Our CEO Sean Cummins—a brilliant creative who founded Cummins & Partners (now CumminsNitro) in Melbourne 10 years ago—paid us a great compliment when he said, “When I opened the Brisbane office not 4 years ago, I wanted to have a business that didn’t think, didn’t act and didn’t feel like it was just a Brisbane agency. An off-shoot, a branch office of the more entitled cities. Being world class is not about where you are in the world. But a state of mind.”

We’re really proud of the great thinkers we have at our agency and thank everyone at One Show for the honor.

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