The first time I watched the new Tourism Australia ad, three words immediately came to mind; ‘the gentle wow.’ Gentle and wow aren’t usually playmates but together they described the feelings I had right then. What a treat, to receive a gentle wow.
There’s the wow of gentle breath; the wow of gentle walks; the wow of gentle poking; the wow of gentle appearances and peering; the wow of pausing to hear gentle nature.
The ad combines quiet location sounds with a sweet love song; leaves rustle as a wombat walks; a group of outdoor fine diners stop talking and tune their ears to a sunset kookaburra call; feet on the sand at a beach; a view from the ground shows very tall trees and they’re rustling like the sound of silk rubbing; a candle is lit and we hear the breath as the taper is blown out.
Even the traditional big wow items are treated gently. Pyrotechnics blaze to a quiet whoosh; canyons and gorges sit as back drops while single propeller planes putter past; the engine of a flash white motor boat sounds more a bubble bath. Even the potential thrill of an aerial drop over a water fall is restrained. We get a butterfly-sized dip rather than the full tummy churn of a rollercoaster-sized wow.
The outback views are epic but not rammed in our faces like Mission Impossible out-takes. We see the sites through others’ eyes; being photographed through the tiny window of a plane or a waiter at work who pauses at the window to take in the vista. Often the eyes are connecting with other wide eyes, sharing a silent ‘wow’.
A lamenting violin introduces a song about feeling love for the first time. I can’t quite follow all the lyrics; but it’s “feel it in your veins; breathe it in and let it fill your heart”. And yes, it builds to a swell of chorus and strings. But the lament returns and joins an elegant kookaburra moment. Distinctly Australian voices fade in and out of the scenes; but there’s no heavy Aussie accent from the singer. It peters out. And there; nobody has shouted or taken the mickey out of you mate.
So much messaging and branding is loud, quirky or clever-upon-clever. And we all know the raucous history of past Tourism Australia campaigns.
My own work involves powerful writing that needs to leap tall buildings in single sentences. I’m constantly making words work as hard as they can in the small spaces I play in: media releases (one and half pages) , email pitches (six bullet points and a hundred and fifty words); phone pitches (thirty seconds) and the smallest of all my work spaces – headlines, email subject lines and Twitter.
So what would a gentle wow look like in my work? What if I stepped back more and took in the view through another’s eyes; or wrote pitches, media releases and headlines using softer tones or more pauses. Would anybody hear me? It would be a bold move.It’s not screaming anything at anyone, but this Tourism Australia ad is bold in its quiet. I hope it delivers the numbers it will be judged on. I hope it will be remembered. It’s already wowed me – gently.