How We Made: Where The Bloody Hell Are You?

The creators of the classic ad campaign "Where The Bloody Hell Are You?"  reflect on how they made such a legendary shout out to Australia.

THE GENESIS

SCOTT MORRISON (former head of Tourism Australia): I'd been googling Australia to see what would come up.

FRAN BAILEY (former Tourism Minister): The results were alarming... 'how do I make sure my flight to NZ doesn't stop in Australia?', 'How dangerous are the OZ munchkins?', 'Do Australians skin you or scalp you?'

MORRISON: It was clear Australia needed a mega rebranding.  People reckoned we were a bunch of right wing rednecks. But there were a lot of negative things being said too.

BAILEY: We needed to subtly say that Australia's not Wolf Creek or SAW or SAW 2. It's more like SAW 3 crossed with Picnic At Hanging Rock with a touch of ACDC and easy going stupidity. But how do you say all that?

KATHERINE SLATER: (marketing consultant) I said - through positive marketing! I happened to be passing an open window when Fran Bailey said this aloud.

BAILEY: It was a revelation for me as a Tourism Minister. For years we'd been focussing on the dangers: diseases,  deaths and likely police violence.

SLATER: I basically said to her, "Fran I respect you but the 'Australia: It Could Statistically Kill You" campaign never really caught fire did it?

THE SLOGAN

MORRISON: I looked at what every other agency had done in the past to sell Australia. Frankly it was shit. I mean, "Throw another shrimp on the barbie"? No, you take shrimps behind the school locker room and beat the crap out of them. Until they vote Liberal.

SLATER: It was clear we needed an agency that really deeply understood Australia.

MORRISON: I said 'what about London firm Saatchi and Saatchi'? In a booming, authoritative voice.

RUPERT SAATCHI (SAATCHI AND SAATCHI): The problem was that Australia was having a hard time cutting through as a country.  Quite frankly: what has Australia got? A Big rock? So does Gibraltar. Dangerous crocodiles? Hello, Florida. Idyllic beaches? Hello, everywhere else with beaches. Friendly New Zealand bar staff? Hello, Auckland.

SLATER: Saatchi said that we needed a slogan that would really shake things up.

SAATCHI: We started off with all the obvious ones: "Australia,  Less Poisonous Than Claimed" or "Come to Australia... Because We Know Where You Live". Or "Australia: If You Close Your Eyes And Hold Your Nose, It Could Be Austria".

BAILEY: But all those were already taken. Oddly by some Eastern European countries.

SLATER: Then one morning we thought - let's not mince words. Who do we know who can do direct and aggressive?

MORRISON: "It's Australia you morons!" That was mine. I'm a big believer in yelling. And how else do you get your message across unless you yell?

SLATER: "It's Australia, you morons" was going to be the slogan forever. We were all very excited about it.

BAILEY: At the time I thought "It's Australia, You Morons!" was very classy - and had that quirky Aussie sense of humour.  And lovely inclusiveness, we were inviting the morons in.

MORRISON: I still think, had we gone with Morons, we wouldn't have had the problems we had.

SLATER: We were going to do a huge launch in Darling Harbour with fireworks that spelled out MORONS! in the sky and we had booked the Australian Children's Morons Choir. It was shameful we had to cancel them weeks later.

BAILEY: Luckily, they were morons so they didn't notice.

JANE PHAM (researcher): The testing results came back...

SLATER: They were dreadful.

PHAM: All of the content tested really badly. The "morons" tested poorly, but actually what offended most people was the use of the word "Australia".

SLATER: We jiggled it around to be "It's Hawaii, you dudes!"

PHAM: ... which tested through the roof!

SLATER: ... but somehow we'd strayed away from the original brief.

THE BUDGET

SAATCHI: I said: filming, beaches, actors, crew, coffee... this campaign's going to cost $180 million to make.

MORRISON: I said, yeah, whatever.

THE CONCEPT

SAATCHI: From my time in London I can tell you that Australians are generally regarded as light fingered pickpockets, cattle thieves or ruffians of the worst order. So I thought: instead of Australians pilfering things, this ad can be them giving back.

MORRISON: The concept was bloody great. Ordinary Aussies all saying how they'd got something free for you.

DANNY CHU: (actor) I was originally cast as a generic Asian man, saying "hey, I've got your wallet." I guess I was trying to return it. It was never made clear.

CHARMAINE STEPHENS: (actor) I was playing a hotel receptionist. My line was "We've poured you some fungal cream". I always had a problem with that .... shouldn't it be "smeared"? But they reckoned "smeared" sounded too disgusting.

DARREN BERENDS: (actor) I was playing a kid holding a net. I stood in front of the ocean, well it was Mandalay Beach in WA.  So my line was "we've got the slime out of the pool", referring to the sea, right? But just then, while we were filming, an Australian naval boat came into shot - carrying a whole bunch of asylum seekers. So it took on a whole new meaning.

SAATCHI: In hindsight we probably should have reshot that one. At the time we thought it was no biggie. And it was lunchtime.

HELEN COPLEY: (actor) I had the awesome line, "I've poured you a beer". I'm handing a plastic cup of beer to someone. Then we pull back and see that I'm a highway police cop giving a Carlton to some random driver. Then my next line is "don't worry, the RBT's on us!"... but they cut that out.

SAATCHI: We wanted to show how even the police in Australia were pretty fun.

HELEN COPLEY: I was in a bikini with a police badge.

SAATCHI: But we had to lose the RBT stuff. Typical Federal police got all miffed about "encouraging drunken driving". I said to them, I guess you're not the fun police! They didn't respond.

MORRISON: So we had this awesome ad campaign. Folks around Australia - some naked, some not - saying "come on down, we've got all this stuff waiting for you..." Pretty fucking great, really grabs you. But it needed a killer ending.

THE ENDING

SLATER: Some of us were saying, 'well there's really no Aborigines in this ad, won't that look weird?'

SAATCHI:  I reassured them. I said no, it's fine.

SLATER: Some of us were really, really saying it.

BAILEY: I thought, at least get Kamahl. Everyone likes him. Or someone non-scary like Ernie Dingo or that white guy from The Castle.

SAATCHI: Look, perhaps we should have got an Indigenous person. But that was too obvious. I wanted to do something different.

MORRISON: I remember when Saatch came in to my office.... had this dreamy, buzzy look on his face. Went right to the point. "ScoMo" he said, "I gotta vision for the ending: a sexy white chick in a bikini". I said to him: "Does she do anything?" He went "Nah she stands there looking sexy but she's oozing Australia from her every pore." I said: "Mate that's why we're paying you the big bucks".

SAATCHI: My rate went up a bit after that.

MORRISON: My one condition was: this chick better be bloody brilliant, whoever she is.

LARA BINGLE: (model) I was really surprised when they asked me. My background was in theatre. I'd just done "Wet T-Shirt Macbeth" and "The Taming of The Screw" at Coolangatta League's Club. So I was looking for meaty scripted roles. Modelling wasn't my thing. I warned the guys of this.

SAATCHI: She brought her own bikini to the audition. That instantly set her head and shoulders above anyone else in the room.

BINGLE: I don't remember the audition that well. Just the embarrassing parts! Oh my God, I got in there and realised I had the wrong bikini on. I was wearing a Coolangatta Gold bikini but they were filming the ad in NSW. Luckily I had a Sydney Swans bikini on me so I apologised and started getting changed in front of them. Mega embarrass! Just as I was halfway through getting changed they said "stop, stop, you've got the part."

SAATCHI: It was pretty clear that only Lara had the maturity to take on this role.

SLATER: In the audition she made it clear she would prefer a line. Of dialogue.

MORRISON: Made sense to me, especially if she was a thespian. I said "Saach you dickhead, give her something to say." In a booming, friendly voice.

BINGLE: We spent a few days workshopping and improvising. I played around with "Hiya!" and "Hi there!"

SAATCHI: But we needed something stronger. Something that would grab people by the curlies.

BINGLE: One morning I was out doing my regular tanning exercises and Saatchi had called rehearsals. I'd forgotten all about it and as I came into the building I could hear him yelling: "Bingle! Where the merry fuck are you?"

MORRISON: And I was yelling "Where the bloody hell are you?" Trying to be polite to women and all that crap.

BINGLE: I had a brain sprain... I said "guys, that's our ending, right there!"

SAATCHI: We did try shooting it as "Where the merry fuck are you?" Until our research showed that fucks are rarely merry.

BINGLE: I'll never forget the day we shot it. It was warm with a crisp chill to the air. The pollen count was low. I stood in the water at wherever it was, in my bikini, and Saatchi says "Bingers, this will be something special. Now swear your arse off."

SLATER: We all felt like we were part of something historic.

THE RECEPTION

SAATCHI: It had a brilliant reception. It was banned in seven countries including England! You can't get more punk than that! It was like the Sex Pistols, but swearier!

BAILEY: It was disappointing that it got banned everywhere but Saatchi explained to me that sometimes marketing campaigns aren't always about getting people to watch them.

SLATER: It was actually a good thing the ad got banned everywhere because the people who did watch it found it offensive or else deeply disturbing.

PHAM: Our research showed that it alienated the Japanese, Germans, English, Americans and wealthy tourists. Also poor and middle income tourists. It did do well in Irish pubs where they created a drinking game around it.

MORRISON: Look, we did see a big drop in tourist numbers following the campaign but we put that down to rainy weather and also Shannon Noll doing a national tour.

THE LEGACY

SAATCHI: It still stands as one of the greatest marketing campaigns of the last three hundred years. And that's not just me saying it, my personal assistant also agrees.

BINGLE: I'm still very proud of Where The Bloody Hell Are You? It's one of my top five greatest works along with the Brendan Fevola sex tape, destroying Aussie cricket and my personalised 4 stroke motor oil. Watch out for the Where The Bloody Hell Are You line of lingerie is all I'm saying.

SLATER: It showed the world a new side to Australia: we could be nude and a bit sweary and like to drink beer. We've never been seen the same since.

MORRISON: I still get people come up to me and say "Where the bloody hell are you?" Although that's sometimes because I've been deep in thought about how to increase tax breaks for the top earners and wandered into a lady's bathroom by mistake.

BAILEY: Was I the Tourism Minister? I don't remember that. Could you please delete any previous comments I may have made. Thanks.