Multiculturalism is not just a passing fancy

The camels have been shampooed, the taxi is waiting, and lights on the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been turned on, but “Where the bloody hell are you?” Does this ring a bell?

The 2006 Australia tourism campaign; after being on air for about 2 years, the advertisement was finally laid to rest; albeit in the receptacle of advertising history.

The topic was recently revisited by media baron Harold Mitchell, and has once again become the topic of hotly contested dissension. Mitchell wrote about the dichotomy of a rapidly diversifying Australian cultural fabric that is being catered by campaigns that staunchly tiptoe the “English advertising culture,” directed solely at English speaking white audiences.

Despite Bingle and the team’s best intentions to convey informality, casualness and friendliness, the message was caught in a quagmire of controversies. While using ‘bloody hell’ may be an ordinary discourse for Australians, ethnic sentiments relevant in other cultures deemed the phrase impolite, and potentially offensive.

And what do the numbers suggest?

For the year ended Jan 2013 – 1.07 million visitors came to Australia from English speaking countries (UK and U.S.), while almost 2.6 million visitors came from non-English speaking Asian countries alone. Add Middle Eastern & Latin American visitors, and this number only increases further. “The Australian advertising industry needs to recognise these trends as red flags, and realize the importance of not only culturally testing messages, but also to create entire campaigns directed solely at culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) audiences the world over,” says Sheba Nandkeolyar, CEO of Multicall Connexions. “There is a dire need for cross cultural creativity in mainstream advertising,” she adds.    

Be it tourists, or migrants, everyone steps on Australian shores with a “suitcase full of dreams”; dreams of discovering the mysteries, the harmony, and the spirit of this wonderfully multicultural land down under. The father of multicultural marketing in Australia, Joseph Assaf, who is the founder of Ethnic Business Awards says, “Multiculturalism is not a passing fancy, hobby or a government policy. It is not just a ‘nice thing to do’ or a marketing opportunity. Multiculturalism in Australia, is a way of life.”

For companies in Australia to truly have a competitive edge in the market, their core value must reflect this sentiment. While there is no need to re-invent the wheel, there certainly is a strong need to recognize and appreciate that ‘G’Day’ means and conveys the same meaning when uttered in Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese or Spanish.

By Priya Prakash

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