Best job in the world - Orchestrated media event of the century

Wed 23 Dec 2009

With the sunsetting on the first six months of Ben Southall's "Best Job In The World", its a perfect time to lift the bonnet, check the plugs, view the mileage and evaluate the real outcomes of this award winning PR super car.

Launched in the first weeks of 2009, by the Tourism Queensland heavy hitters, there must have been a few nerves as they placed about $2M on the long odds roulette wheel. Their untested, "new age" social and commercial media campaign was about to take the world by storm. In the engine room,, was an up-spec site built by Cummins Nitro which looked extremely good to the beholder. Out there a world of people ready to apply for a $160 000 six month contract to "blog" about his/her experiences on the Great Barrier Reef, branded under the "Islands of the Great Barrier Reef".

Based upon press releases and some pointed employment ads in world print, they hit the mark exactly. The news wire buzzed in post christmas news void about the "Best job in the world" based on the Great Barrier Reef. Meanwhile the bloggers, video pros, writers, photographers, wannabe adventurers went nuts.

Myself, I was accidentally (though questioned) on a round the world "Couch Surfing" and friend connect tour, taking in Asia, Europe, Canada  and LA. Having just jagged 4 seats across the centre of a 747, I slept from Thailand into Rome to arrive fresh as a daisy. My friend Emanuela almost drove off the road travelling from the airport telling me in her fundamental English about her desire to get the best job on Hamilton Island. $160k for a job on Hamo job. Surely she was on something.besides the thousands of gallons of caffeine that the nation consumes every day. By the time the emails where checked and the opportunity was fully understood, we were out in the streets of Rome, Ema in a stunning ensemble of pink and black snorkelling attire strutting at the Spanish Steps, Colosseum, and Trevi Fountain to produce her 1 minute application video. It was funny, it was colourful and people WERE approaching us asking if our efforts were for the best job in the world. Indeed, there was no question the world now knew about the campaign and the Great Barrier Reef.

Back at home, the tourism channels max'd out. The web site, top heavy with unnecessary "Flash" componentry proved the weak link in the online machine. Stopping or slowing from international visitation as the beginnings of 35000 video applications were loaded. The site being inundated is a PR outcome in itself and a great press release opportunity. For the budding applicants it reflected pretty poorly on Australia''s, Queensland's and TQ's credentials in building reliable web sites, but that was a complaint of a select few.

Loosely worded, the job spec attracted all sorts, 30000 odd shot in front of the computer web-cam applications, 4000 shot with digital still camera's in movie mode, 500 done with Windows movie maker. The balance being the real contenders, professionally shot an edited video applications with less than 50 that really stood out as having the skills and experiences to pull it off.

The semi-submersed truth was that the employers where looking for media stunts, with a number of stand out efforts including Hailey Lewis' instant round the world trip and Ben's Southall's central London stand. TQ's conspicuously narrowed quickly down to a top 16, with one representing each of the target markets for the organisation. Seemingly impervious to government organisation "employ on merit", one top 16 applicant's basic connection with the English language appeared to be in direct contravention with stated needs for the successful applicant. The fact was media interest and world focus was seldom off our corner of the world for the duration of the selection process.

Watch on and applaud we continued to do. Media accredited and attending the final 16 "long weekend" interview process had a front row seat for the circus. Pushing out over an hour over coverage, using a couple of handicams and some vollies in garb, we garnered positive comment from international media, heavy slung and imposing with their betacams, long edit times and satellite requirements. The most notable of our tech show was taking over the nav station on Sun Goddess, the Hayman Island luxury, editing and uploading to on the Toshiba, while co-presenter and friend Cristina interviewed the skipper.

At selection time it was not too surprising that popular pick Anjaan, online video expert Cali (and husband) and charismatic radio man from Korea, Juweon Kimwere overlooked in a further media pitch at Queensland's biggest supplier of international tourists by the selection of Ben Southall from the UK. This is in no way belittling to Ben's skills or that of the majority of the top 16, or top 50 for that matter. It was probably that fact that one my people had ended up somewhere she should not have been and overheard the official media crew asking for a heads up when Ben was coming, days before the announcement. Read into that what you will.

Ben's star and skills did shine however. The 24 hours after the announcement, his stamina was tested greatly with interview after interview counted off with him taking a short break to address the post event party while the rest of us let our hair down.

The real value of the campaign had now been exhausted. With the world media gone, the majority of the world switched off from his adventures. While quite articulate, Ben's tenure has been seemingly solo and a little bland has his commodity has been loaned out to invested parties amongst tourism operators along the entire stretch of the reef. One wonders about the difference that Cali & co's extreme online video skills may have showcased product with more precision, Anjaans charisma might have extracted more personality from the people behind the product showcase, or Juweon's business savvy may have ensured a conflicting brand was not shown in videos. The other thing that mystifies is that a pro media crew was not engaged to product the media for Ben. I have heard him speak of the pressure to get the media out... and that means the quality is sure to suffer. Great ambassador for Queensland yes, master of required technology....hmmmm, no quite.

In the end, its does not matter greatly. People are still writing about it, over $300M in press is measured for $2M outlayed, thousands of blogs all around the world now have pages dedicated to stats and making links to the Great Barrier Reef . For about 35000 odd applicants minus one, the hopes and dreams for the best job in the world lived for while.

... and how about the business result. Has there been an influx of tourists? Despite GFC gloom, the Great Barrier Reef in one report has visitor numbers climbing, while another press relates a reduced success? Who to believe and how much is due to the BJITW. Within tourism politics, island operators outside Hamilton express quiet dismay at the limited cherry bite, while the rest of Queensland tourism regions want their own media frenzy... and what ever you do, don't darken the door of Tourism Far North Queensland wearing a shirt.

John Nayler is a career IT professional, Internet Consultant for 10 years and proprietor of eCentral. and online video magazines showcase innovative approaches to his hi-tech marketing skills. He was an unsuccessful applicant for the best job in the world, but continues to sail around the Whitsundays wearing the official "best job" hat he nicked at the final 16 event.