Camped on Kangaroo Island once. Great place. Swam naked on a pristine beach and ate the best damn King George Whiting ‘n’ chips you’ve ever had in your life.

Update: last night on the ABC’s Media Watch it was revealed that celebrities were paid $750 to Tweet positively about KI. This article was posted hours before that, purely by coincidence, and we weren’t paid a cent. So there.

Saw rare glossy black cockatoos, koalas, seals, you name it. The seals are hilarious. They waddle up the dunes on the island’s wild southern shore, then roll back down like kids on a grassy slope. Good times.

For me, KI was a wild, sand-between-your-toes, hardly-spend-a-cent kind of holiday. That’s why I was initially bewildered by the artsy ads aimed at an upmarket audience, which are currently in their final week of an eight week eastern states TV run. Well, turns out SA Tourism know exactly what they’re doing.

Just as Melbourne has positioned itself as a haven for that special class of people who enjoy flouncing about chasing large allegorical balls of string, the people marketing Kangaroo Island have realised that cashed-up middle aged folk can be lured with the 60 second equivalent of an obtuse French film set to a soulful acoustic soundtrack.

And it’s working. My wife loves it. Everyone’s wife loves it. Husbands love it too, and SA Tourism Marketing Director David O’Loughlin has the numbers to prove it.

“Anecdotally, I can tell you from some of our wholesalers that Kangaroo Island sales are up significantly this month in NSW, Victoria and Adelaide,” Mr O’Loughlin says. “Visitation to the KI website and are up strongly, and passenger numbers are up on the KI ferry.

Mr O’Loughlin says he aimed the ad at people seeking an active holiday rather than a passive one. To do that, he had to appeal to people’s sense of mystery. “We wanted to build some mythology around the island,” he explains.

He did that, all right. The ad is mythology central. Here’s the bit where the kid dresses up like Max in Where the Wild Things Are:

What, you expected to find REAL kangaroos on the island?

Here’s the bit where the people ride their bikes on the beach, in a scene referencing the entire life work of Depardieu and pretty much every French film ever made.

That's just silly… unless of course it's a new way of digging up pippies

Here’s another Where the Wild Things Are reference. This one’s for the seafarers. In truth, the closest most KI visitors get to this sort of action is when they’re heaving their Vili’s pie overboard on the ferry. Still, it doesn’t hurt to dream.

For God's sake kids, don't try this at home. Or on Kangaroo Island, come to mention it.

And here’s the bit that you can only assume references Robert Frost’s poem The Road not Taken (which is often mistakenly called The Road Less Travelled). Check it. Two kids, a road, a little pre pubescent sexual tension thrown into the mix. The artful frame of a half dead eucalypt. What’s not to love?

If anyone understands this scene, they're lying

And of course, the whole thing is set to the same Eddie Vedder music which was used in Into the Wild, the movie which was all about the escapist fantasy of leaving consumer culture behind forever for somewhere wilder and more elemental.

James Rickard from Adelaide ad agency KWP deliberately planned most of this. With the skill of an acupuncturist, he cleverly designed the ad to prick us in certain nostalgic places.

“We really wanted to demonstrate an emotional connection between what the island provides visitors and the viewer,” Mr Rickard told The Punch.

“Tourism SA told us the last thing they wanted was a standard travelogue that said ‘stay here, do this’. We wanted the fantasy of escapism. If you sum it up in one word, it’s freedom.

“Those two children represent that sense of adventure. They are our inner child, the simpler more innocent moments in life. She is poetic and beautiful and has the sense of exploration. He is adventurous and dynamic. Their paths cross on the island.”

The ad is now working so well that some people are picking up the phone to book as soon as they see it. And really, it’s good to see our tourism bosses get something right for a change. That’s especially the case for the South Australian mob, who once came up with history’s worst ever tourism slogan with the unforgettable “Adelaide: going all the way”.

The beauty of this ad is that it reads its market perfectly. Middle-aged Australians with a bit of spare cash love nothing better than a holiday destination which feels real. They’re not up for tacky, unless it’s the ironic tackiness of a place like Vegas.

Most of us are like this. We want real. We want sand between our toes and decent showers to wash it all off again at the end of the day. Throw in a sense of white man dreaming, aka nostalgia, and you’ve hooked us like a whiting. We’ll be on the next plane. Or in the case of KI, the next plane, bus, ferry and rental car.

Oh, and to use a word they absolutely love in ad agencies, here’s a lovely piece of “synergy” for you. The last time Pearl Jam was in town, lead singer Eddie Vedder (the soulful ad soundtrack guy) went surfing out on Kangaroo island!

This ad has really struck a chord, even if in reality not every KI experience is as windswept and moody as the tourism folk would have you believe.

The real Kangaroo Island. Shhhh! Don't tell anyone.

Most commented


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    • Scotchfinger says:

      02:48pm | 23/04/12

      Anthony Sharwood: the Punch’s resident Bogan writer. Footy, beach holidays with the missus, more footy. All-round Good Bloke.

    • Dr Digger says:

      04:22pm | 23/04/12

      100% bang on. I’ve been thinking the same thing for a while.

      You do it well, Ant.

      Recent articles on:

      Aussie workers
      Suburban footy grounds
      Finding an AFL team
      Sydney Casinos
      Eddie McGuire

      You’re the writer Mr DeBrito wishes he was.

      I enjoy your work in a “Me and this bloke have absolutely nothing in common but he seems like a decent guy.”

      Keep ‘em coming son.

      Note to editor: Get this man a payrise before he starts writing about Sydney mortgages/interest rates.

    • Macca says:

      06:01pm | 23/04/12

      Dr Digger, unfortunately Ant already has form with Mortgage stories in Sydney (couldn’t find the link, be just has so many stories!)

      And amen to the sentiment of a beer with the bloke. Ranks above his Punchy Peers for my first round. (although, that’s partly because all the ladies are seemingly coupled up, Penbo’s life-style choices would result in my death and Dan’s just a decade of life experience and a Walkley short of Ant).

    • Peter says:

      06:30am | 24/04/12

      Reads like a paid plug for KI. Been there and was bored. A few animals and no nice beaches.Biggest problem is you have to go to that shit hole Adelaide to ge there.

    • SA Here I Come says:

      02:48pm | 23/04/12

      I’m packing my bags right now to head down to SA.  The ad worked on me!

    • Andrew says:

      02:52pm | 23/04/12

      It almost made me teary. But I reckon they got the Eddie Vedder soundtrack cheaper than they otherwise would have in the 90s.

    • dak says:

      01:20pm | 24/04/12

      Nil interest until I read this post.  Off to watch the ad now…

    • dak says:

      01:24pm | 24/04/12

      Hmm.  Ad was crap.  Not worthy of Eddie’s greatness at all.

      From the pic, I thought that kid in the hood was a weird stone statue, until I saw the video lol.

    • Shane* says:

      03:09pm | 23/04/12

      The audio makes it. The entire ad would’ve fallen flat if the music was anything other than Mr Vedder’s beautiful baritone.

      Pearl Jam - Current holders of the ‘greatest band in the world’ title. Also the greatest US band ever.

    • SM says:

      03:34pm | 23/04/12

      “The audio makes it. The entire ad would’ve fallen flat if the music was anything other than Mr Vedder’s beautiful baritone.”

      Absolutely right.  Take that away and it’s the same as all the other tourist ads.  Had you not been to the place before Ant, and if it didn’t have the Vedder audio, I’d bet you’d never have given the ad a second thought

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      06:36pm | 23/04/12

      The 90’s called and they want their ‘greatest band in the world’ title back.

    • adam says:

      03:17pm | 23/04/12

      So that’s what that add was all about! I honestly had no idea. Course I was watching it whilst channel surfing between two football games whilst making bookings for beach holiday I was gunna invite Scotchfinger to tag along to

    • Bern says:

      03:31pm | 23/04/12

      South Australia - particularly the West Coast - is one of those rare pieces of Australia where you can still be free. So much of our eastern seaboard has been choked by rules and regulations. Come to SA, drive down a dirt road, find a beach to yourself and surf and fish alone for days, sleeping on the beach next to your campfire. Nobody will even try to stop you.

    • che says:

      04:51pm | 23/04/12


    • Yawnnn says:

      07:43am | 24/04/12

      @Nick, your trip must have been some time ago, it would cost you $96 per person plus $212 for the car, all for a 45 minute journey taking 45 minutes. 

      As for being aimed at an “active” holiday, what a joke, its more a look see place! 
      As for Ant’s “hardly-spend-a-cent kind of holiday” he must have gone when there was a competitive sea crossing in place, that Sealink sunk.  Sealink had Kingscote’s wharf condemned so they could have the monopoly. 

      Ant, when exactly did you go?

      As for Mr O’Loughlin spiel, “anecdotally” is the word meaning ‘second-hand accounts’, hardly believable!

    • Nick A says:

      04:14pm | 23/04/12

      Thought about it many times, been there before, but over $200 return for 2 ppl and car is just too much.

    • Ken says:

      08:59pm | 23/04/12

      Even more if you want to take the kids. Kangaroo island is only for the rich people not the rest of us!

    • David says:

      10:07am | 24/04/12

      Or you can travel to Bali and have a great time but just don’t injure yourself and have to make a trip to a third world hospital and sit in a waiting room with other bogans.

    • Rommi says:

      04:22pm | 23/04/12

      OK let’s go!  I’m in as long as I have that soundtrack with me while there!

    • Vedder says:

      07:16pm | 23/04/12

      Rommi, get Eddie Vedders solo album, cram the fam in the car with the album on repeat. Just magic

    • dancan says:

      04:22pm | 23/04/12

      I saw the advert as.  “Kangaroo Island, where you can feel comfortable dumping the kids in the bush to wander about and become feral, while you and the misses cycle off to the deserted beach for a shag before meeting up with all your swinger friends over dinner with a tonne of red wine.  And we’re far away from anywhere so no one ever know”.

    • Kheiron says:

      04:48pm | 23/04/12

      Explained that way it sounds great.

    • M says:

      08:06am | 24/04/12

      Duncan has sold me. I’m buying tickets as we speak.

    • acotrel says:

      08:22am | 28/04/12

      Why would you shag your own wife first ?  I thought it’d be more sensible to save yourself up for the really naughty stuff !

    • Brad says:

      04:26pm | 23/04/12

      Classy visuals but the music fails. Sounds like a tune for unsophisticated rednecks. Very lame.

    • Vedder says:

      09:09pm | 23/04/12

      You fail Brad. Rednecks can’t tune into the frequency of this sort of artist.
      Perhaps why you’re struggling with it.

    • Pete says:

      12:18pm | 24/04/12

      I agree Brad. Lame tinkle tinkle ad music in gentle, ethereal landscapes. Even more out of date than Melbourne’s ball of string palaver.
      This sort of ad was big in Europe around 2007, just hitting S.A. obviously.

    • No need to tell the locals I am the Plover Lover says:

      04:28pm | 23/04/12

      And they used the best 4X4XFAR

    • JAM says:

      04:48pm | 23/04/12

      Been there and its like that.

    • ron down south says:

      04:59pm | 23/04/12

      Great Add for a great great place been there six times so much to do

    • stephen says:

      05:21pm | 23/04/12

      In Europe all the travel agents are flogging this place.
      A good friend was there for 3 weeks, she said she was staying for one, then she rang all her rich friends from Germany, (she was from there too) and they were shindigging there for the whole time.
      Didn’t want to leave.
      I think she was right too ; the beaches here have had their run, but the interior places have not been marketed properly - perhaps because we do not see what others see as we spend too much time within 4 walls.

    • David says:

      06:35pm | 23/04/12

      When I purchased my land on KI in 1980 my Father said I was crazy.

      I replied ‘yes I am’ as I treasured my little bit of insanity.

      I am still smiling and now so are my children.

    • Isola says:

      07:20pm | 23/04/12

      My folks sold our “shack” on the beach front at Penneshaw in the early 80s. My best childhood memories come from that place and the freedom it gave me as a kid. You are lucky to share it with your children, as I have done with mine!

    • Expat says:

      06:38pm | 23/04/12

      Disappointingly for fans of his curmudgeonly ways, even Charlie Brooker likes K I. But then he did stay at Southern Ocean Lodge, which as he wrote, is “a place so confidently swish and friendly, I instantly felt like a burglar. It’s easily the most upmarket place I’ve ever stayed: I was almost ashamed to go to the toilet. The architecture is straight out of Grand Designs: all floor-to-ceiling windows and understated modernity, not to mention stunning views across the ocean – the lodge is perched atop a cliff, overlooking a beach, situated in between two national parks. If it housed a death ray (which I’m fairly sure it doesn’t), this would be precisely the sort of place a taste-conscious Bond villain might construct.”

    • Big Youth 57 says:

      06:44pm | 23/04/12

      Spent a week at Emu Bay with 2 related families, in a holiday house 2 streets back from the ocean. Half the island was burnt out, there were water issues, it was hot and dusty,  and there stingrays in the water, but jeez it was one of the best damn holidays we’ve ever had. Had a big male koala parked in the tree out the back and we swam every day in the ice cold water…the stingrays didn’t mind at all. Loved it.

    • Bill says:

      06:49pm | 23/04/12

      Finally we get to see a part of Australia promoted overseas other than the tired old, overrated Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

    • Isola says:

      07:04pm | 23/04/12

      There is a sense of mystery about K.I that this ad captures brilliantly. I think James Rickard and KWP have portrayed the windspept, untamed beauty of the island in a way that hasn’t been seen before. I agree with the posts about the choice of music, too. It ties in with the imagery to make it memorable.

    • johnny blue says:

      07:39pm | 23/04/12

      sadly what the ad doesnt point out is that as a tourist you need to stick only to the touristy spots, because if you go in to a local pub you’ll get bashed by the locals.

    • Marg says:

      10:46pm | 23/04/12

      What a lot of rot! Show us your bruises “johnny blue”.

    • Ed says:

      01:23pm | 29/04/12

      What a load of rubbish!
      My wife and I ran the Penneshaw Hotel for 9 years and the only fights involving tourists (few and far between) were started by tourists who were out looking for trouble. Most visitors have the time of their lives with many, many returning time and time again. The majority of Islanders are fantastic, fun loving people who have plenty of respect for tourists as nearly everyone has someone in their family involved in the tourist industry.
      Of course any idiot visiting somewhere and disrespecting the place and looking for trouble will nearly always find it. But there again, that’s the same the world over.
      Do yourself a favor, and visit KI, it is a truly natural place, the kids will love it and there are always plenty of things to see and do. Great fishing, Parks, pristine beaches, rivers, creeks, arts and crafts, wines, great food and the list goes on and on.
      There again, you can always sit back and just watch the world go by.
      The locals ARE friendly, and you will want to return, like so many do.

    • The Black Poloneck says:

      07:54pm | 23/04/12

      Loved the ad and it connected with me, through the stack, at the emotional layer.  I warmed instantly to the location, it required no analysis, the piece succeeded until it was over analysed removing the gold that made it so appealing.  Too many try and use vague scientific metrics to understand artistic response losing the idea that art is an emotional not academic, it requires no reading of providence and faux intellectualisation. 
      Next time just show the video and say you liked it.

    • Sh0ckWave says:

      08:43pm | 23/04/12

      Seriously ? This is no different to the other thousand odd tourist ads you see every year. Wine’ing song, plinking guitar and flashing out of focus images that do not infer anything other then watching someone elses badly cut together holiday reel on fast forward. This is originality for those who think ‘dancing with the stars’ is new and brash.
      Couple ways this could be made better :
      1. Widen the angle, the whole ad is too claustrophibic.
      2. Increase the time duration on each scene, holiday’s are an envelopment .. not a smattering of glancing looks and fleeting memories.
      3. Turn the volume down, these places have their own ambience not some idiots radio at 100% volume in the background .. do the images justice.
      4. Bring the scene’s together, this ad flows like a trailer from a ‘direct to DVD’ movie .. engross us in what it’s saying, not just try tempting us with frivle.
      5. Add some warmth, add the temperature up a bit in these images .. they look like they were all filmed in some cold stark morning. Even a simple 81a on the lense would give the scene’s some depth.

    • Movin On says:

      10:16am | 01/05/12

      Fail, no guitar in the music. It’s a ukulele, and the album title, from Eddie Vedder is called “Ukulele Songs”, released around May of last year. Didn’t bother to read the rest of your whinging post.

    • Rossco says:

      09:25pm | 23/04/12

      Kangaroo Island is beautiful and I really want to go back soon. Just dont drive after dark.

    • Neui1978 says:

      10:29pm | 23/04/12

      How much did you get paid to run this story? I hear celebs get $750 for commenting on twitter about this video….

    • Garita says:

      03:45pm | 24/04/12

      Suggesting Sharwood is a celeb is a pretty loose use of the word celeb.

    • Bitten says:

      10:49pm | 23/04/12

      I’m great-ocean-road-ing with my partner this year but more than happy to check out KI for the next holiday smile

    • Garita says:

      11:17pm | 23/04/12

      Sharwood swimming naked…...ewwwwww (shudder)

    • Steve says:

      11:34pm | 23/04/12

      KI is great. Been many times, but…
      Interesting article given tonight’s Media Watch.

    • Steven says:

      11:46pm | 23/04/12

      Did you get paid for this like some celebrities have been exposed to doing on ‘media watch’ this evening?

    • Yawnnn says:

      07:18am | 24/04/12

      Obviously you were paid for the plug.

      Did you also know that just 20% of tourism from South Aussies?

      Why?  Because it cost 4 adults and a vehicle $596 for the 17 kilometre journey that takes 45 minutes!!

      Is this the MOST expensive piece of travel in Australia?  I’d like to hear for anything that could better those costs.  $12.50 for a box of chips and a one inch by 5 inch piece of fish.  You call that first class Anthony?  That’s dearer than World Famous Doyles at Watsons Bay.  Diesel is 20 cents dearer than 17 kms back!

      I think this expose on KI will eventually bite them on the bum,  its all deceit, nothing more.  Everyone is leaving the island because of costs, they are all screwing each other for the dollar.  I wont be back.

    • Jane says:

      07:57am | 24/04/12

      We went 3 years ago, very costly to get there from Victoria, but we camped and took almost all of everything else we needed with us. It IS a beautiful place, but there’s a reason it’s so quiet - not everyone can afford to get there, and certainly not to do it regularly.

    • drecked says:

      08:39am | 24/04/12

      When celebrities get involved it’s a good indication they have reached the
      top of the greed level !  It’s not a bad place I like It but they are going
      to alienate the people by making it to expensive !

    • Richard says:

      10:22am | 24/04/12

      Thanks for the plug!  Probably not the best pic of our Kangaroo Island YHA but at least is shows that that you can do KI on a budget!  On a personal note, have visited KI many times for work and holiday and it is well worth a visit. Better photo’s and reviews here…  Richard (YHA)

    • Yawnnn says:

      11:40am | 24/04/12

      @Richard for the cost of 4 adults and a car I could tour the Kimberleys from Sydney, its not economical, ask any South Aussie!

    • fred says:

      12:03pm | 24/04/12

      dont complain about the ferry costs , if you go there youll understand how they have preserved the place !

    • TEZZA says:

      12:08pm | 24/04/12

      I can’t watch this ad. It gives me the creeps to see the 12 year old boy in his sailing dinghy about to DIE on the surf swept rocks.
      O.K. I know it’s a fake shot, but how stupid to show such a dangerous activity supposedly being engaged in by a young kid. Why not show him base jumping off a cliff, or playing Russian Roulette with a revolver - each would involve a similar level of risk.

    • TEZZA says:

      12:08pm | 24/04/12

      I can’t watch this ad. It gives me the creeps to see the 12 year old boy in his sailing dinghy about to DIE on the surf swept rocks.
      O.K. I know it’s a fake shot, but how stupid to show such a dangerous activity supposedly being engaged in by a young kid. Why not show him base jumping off a cliff, or playing Russian Roulette with a revolver - each would involve a similar level of risk.

    • MotherR says:

      09:18am | 29/04/12

      Good one. It’s like any ad - pitched at a couple of notches higher in the class structure (yes, there is one in Australia) than the people who actually take up the offer. Those parents don’t look like they have children that age. I suspect that among the real takers, there would be a greater representation of Crocs (that thing that people think is a shoe).

      The little-boat-near-the-rocks scene is just going to lead to ‘a waste of taxpayer’s money’ on trying to rescue those drowned kids, whose boat has been smashed against the rocks.

      Also, the fact that people are actually responding to the ad by visiting the island, if they are, is probably just because they were bored and had forgotten about KI, saw the cute seals, remembered those rocks from their own childhood adventures and thought, let’s go.

      I just know that ‘it wouldn’t look like the brochure’ when I got there. Just like Tasmania. I couldn’t find all the wonderful food that was supposed to be there because it had all been shipped to Melbourne.

    • not convinced says:

      11:51am | 29/04/12

      re the Eddie Vedder soundtrack - didn’t the guy from ‘Into the Wild’  die a horrible death after he got trapped in the wilds and nearly froze/starved to death and then finally did himself in by accidentally eating poison berries?  Can you do that on KI?


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