“The best job in the world” and Tourism QLD (Unforgettable Ads Series)


Driving tourism is necessary for every country’s economy, and the industry often seems quite monotonous with similar marketing strategies that don’t necessarily cause any one particular place to stand out from the other. The wheel needs to be reinvented from time to time, and Tourism QLD certainly did a fine job of setting a new benchmark. 

The world of successful advertising is driven by creativity and out of the box thinking, and lucrative offers are something few can resist. In a bid to promote The Great Barrier Reef as a global tourist destination, Tourism Queensland upped the antsy with an incredible campaign provokingly titled “The Best Job in The World”. It is evident that the job would have attracted applicants regardless of the campaign, but that’s what makes this execution pure genius. 

The 2009 campaign targeted people worldwide with an offer to house sit or be a caretaker of the islands of The Great Barrier Reef for a period of six months. And of course, it was extremely appealing, with the benefit of a huge salary, transportation around the islands, and free accommodation in a multimillion-dollar villa. Who could resist? 

The application process involved the submission of a web video and blogs, which as anyone could have guessed, invited so many applicants that the website crashed two days into the campaign. This was quickly resolved, and interest continued months into the campaign, with applicants doing whatever it took to capture the attention of recruiters. It even resulted in a few video applications being banned because, well, we’re human, and people got just a little over creative.

Tourism Queensland invested a mere $1 million in the campaign but generated global publicity of over $70 million in its first month of launch with an estimated total global publicity of over $430 million. With over 35,000 applicants from more than 200 countries, this campaign was widely regarded as one of the most successful tourism campaigns. 

And its effects were obvious, not just in income, but also in the traffic that led to the website seeing almost 9 million visits as well as receiving international news coverage. It was so successful that the campaign snagged seven awards at the Cannes Lion Advertising Festival and earned a spot on the PR Platinum Awards Hall of Fame in 2014. These are just a few mentions, but bear testimony to this being one of the most effective PR campaigns ever.

BBC subsequently made an hour-long documentary about the final stages of the campaign which was broadcast in July 2009. This documentary earned the broadcaster its highest views of the week.

As creative as all the applications were, the ultimate winner was Ben Southall, hailing all the way from the United Kingdom. Weirdly enough, Ben was stung by a jellyfish in his last week on the job but went on to make a full recovery. He took residency in Queensland after the conclusion of the six month period and went on to serve as Ambassador of Queensland Tourism.

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