MARK COLVIN: The marketers of Canberra are so sick of bad publicity that they’ve offering people 500 free trips.
There is a catch, though.
The people who win the weekend away will have to talk about their short break on social media.
This report by Martin Cuddihy begins with the Scottish-American comedian Craig Ferguson interviewing the Australian actor Guy Pearce.
CRAIG FERGUSON: Am I wrong about Canberra?
GUY PEARCE: No, no, no.
CRAIG FERGUSON: Right.
GUY PEARCE: There’s a lot wrong about Canberra but you’re not wrong about Canberra.
CRAIG FERGUSON: I was kind of concerned that perhaps I would lose my loyal of Australian, well a couple of Australian people that watch the show.
I’ve never been to Canberra, you’ve been there?
GUY PEARCE: I have actually, yes. I went, we filmed there once.
CRAIG FERGUSON: Yeah, Kylie Minogue? Yeah she’s Australian. I think she’s from Canberra.
GUY PEARCE: I think she is from Canberra.
CRAIG FERGUSON: I think she is from Canberra.
GUY PEARCE: She’s not actually and she’d hate you for saying that.
CRAIG FERGUSON: Oh would she? Somebody’s from Canberra.
GUY PEARCE: Well people usually from Canberra deny they’re from Canberra.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: That exchange on The Late Late Show caused an uproar, at least it did in Canberra.
Craig Ferguson later apologised to Australia and to Canberra for his remarks – as did Guy Pearce.
So, is the city that’s been described as “Dubbo with politicians” really that bad?
The head of Australian Capital Tourism, Ian Hill, doesn’t think so.
IAN HILL: Well we think Canberra is one of the best kept secrets in Australia. We think we’ve got fantastic experiences here from our national attractions and the arts and culture with a really good food and wine scene.
GUY PEARCE: Despite all those attractions, Australian Capital Tourism still feels it has work to do, and so the marketing body is giving away free holidays.
(Except from advertisement)
ANNOUNCER: We’re looking for 500 people, just like you, to send on a free weekend to Australia’s capital – accommodation, activities, meals, the lot. You can take a friend, your partner or your whole family.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: So what’s the catch?
In order to win, you have to blog, tweet, sign-in and post on Facebook about your experiences in Canberra.
Are you playing with fire asking them to use social media to comment on their holiday?
IAN HILL: We’re confident here that we’ve got a good offering, and to be honest, people can use social media now or write letters to the editor whenever they came down.
So we think we can show them some good experiences and a good time, particularly based on the things they like to do.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Social media isn’t exactly an easy beast to control.
Qantas found that out the hard way late last year, when it asked people to tweet using the hashtag #qantasluxury.
Some of the more memorable responses included.
TWEET 1 (voiceover): #QantasLuxury is getting from A to B without the plane being grounded or an engine catching fire.
TWEET 2 (voiceover): #QantasLuxury is a massive executive bonus while your workers starve and your former customers choke.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: The editor in chief of media and marketing website Mumbrella is Tim Burrowes.
TIM BURROWES: Worst case scenario is that someone goes and has an absolutely appalling time and writes about it and it gets picked up. You know, so the negative experience goes viral.
With this one, some of the control you can kind of put in is who you actually choose to participate in the first place. You know, you can’t control what they say but you can certainly see the sort of tone they have chosen to speak in in the past.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Ian Hill from Australian Capital Tourism believes the campaign will change a few Canberra stereotypes.
IAN HILL: We’re looking to create an open forum and community of advocates around the nation’s capital because it is everyone’s capital. So we’re hoping to, through the tourism experience, have people start the conversation and almost reinvent the narrative around Canberra which I think has been lost over the years.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Tim Burrowes says this ploy isn’t too risky but you can never be too sure.
TIM BURROWES: One of the great things Canberra has going for it is low expectations. So, you know, low expectations when people are going in and then hopefully give them a pleasant surprise when they get there, surprise them with what there is to do.
So, you know, from that point of view it’s actually probably a lot easier to achieve than if people go in, you know, expecting the most amazing few days of their lives.
MARK COLVIN: Mumbrella editor in chief Tim Burrowes. Martin Cuddihy was the reporter.