Sophie Knutsson for Chief Funster: how Tourism Australia shines a light on its working holidays

Posted on May 7, 2013 7:23 am by | Participatory Communication | Social Media | Video

David Spark and Sophie KnutssonTourism marketing usually involves images of exotic locales you’ll see when your eyes are closed long after you viewed the photo or video. In 2009, Tourism Queensland added a new spin to its usual assortment of pictures of the Great Barrier Reef. The organization used the scenery to entice people to apply for “The Best Job in the World,” caretaker of Great Barrier Reef islands for six months.

The campaign attracted massive attention and was even reintroduced this year as one winner “is regretfully handing over the keys to his island hacienda.” The new campaign will lead to a replacement.

The campaign worked so well at shining a light on Queensland tourism that the Australian tourism group decided to borrow the campaign idea. Not for one job, mind you, but six different jobs located in six different parts of the country. The Wildlife Caretaker, for examlple, will work in South Australia while the Lifestyle Photographer will snap pics in Melbourne. Each job runs six months and pays $50,000, along with another $50,000 for living expenses.

Some 330,000 people expressed interest and 40,000 made the effort to submit 30-second videos explaining why they should be picked for the job they want. On April 24, the organizers unveiled their short list of 25 candidates for each job. Those videos are available for viewing on the campaign site. Among the 25 finalists for Chief Funster in New South Wales (which comes with VIP access to exclusive Syndney parties and festivals), along with candidates from France, Lithuiana, South Africa, the U.S., India, Mexico, the U.K., and Canada is Sophie Gudmann Knutsson, the lone finalist from Sweden.

Sophie—a videographer studying multimedia communications—is one of the more enthusiastic and engaged students in my graduate-level social media class at Academy of Art University. She was one of the organizers of the University’s Viral Video Summit (where I emcee’d the panel discussion a couple weeks ago). And she was stunned to learn that, out of all those 30-second video applications, hers was among those short-listed.

Sophie’s task now—the deadline is today—is to get friends and colleagues to recommend her for the job and otherwise convince the organizers that she belongs in the group of 15 finalists, who will be flown to Australia for interviews next month, with winners announced on the 21st at a media event.

To that end, Sophie has set up a Tumblr blog, #SophieToSydney, where she has posted recommendations and shared other material, such as a video tutorial on how she made the initial video application. The page also lists tweets from Sophie’s Twitter account.

The campaign—which cost Australia’s tourism group $4 million—is producing a handsome payoff. According to Andrew McEvoy, managing director of Tourism Australia, the working holiday maker Facebook page has added 300,000 new fans since the competition got underway, and more than 430,000 people have sought information about a working holiday in Australia, he told the International Business Times. Working holidays in Australia contribute about $2.5 billion to the Australian economy.

Organizers helped spread the word buy selecting a geographically-diverse group of short-listed candidates. Articles have appeared in mainstream publications in India, Taiwan, , the UK, Singapore, and Ireland. A Google News search for the competition produces some 1.7 million results. That’s a lot of global exposure for Australia.

The lesson Tourism Australia learned from the original Queensland campaign should be clear to anybody else, too: Getting people from the desired target audience to create inventive and original content that lets everyone know why and how badly they want a shot at your product or service can attract a lot more attention than you telling everyone how much they should want your product or service. Watch some of the short-list videos; you’d be hard-pressed to find better marketing for getting to Australia.

I also have a message for the organizers: While I’m sure all the finalists for the Chief Funster position would make fine additions to Australia’s official tourism representatives, Sophie is your best choice. Her work is excellent, her energy knows no limits, her willingness to help others in class is noteworthy. She’s active socially in real life as well as online, where she has accounts on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Etsy, YouTube (where you can see some of her video work), Prezi, Twitter, you name it. A high-performing student in America but with roots firmly in Sweden, speaking both languages with ease, spending her free time chronicling fun events and (by all accounts) having a blast doing it, Sophie embodies what a “Chief Funster” should be.

Add this endorsement to the list, Tourism Australia.



  • 1.Sophie is doing an awesome job on this project and she kicked ass organizing the viral video summit. I'm very impressed.

    David Spark | May 2013 | San Bruno, CA

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