There’s been a bitter backlash from Adelaide’s advertising community over a decision by the South Australian Tourism Commission to go outside state borders and award its coveted creative advertising contract, worth almost $5m, to Melbourne agency TBWA.

The account is the most lucrative in South Australia (think about that) and had been held for the past 20 years by local outfit KWP, who made the final round of the tender process but were ultimately overlooked – a move that’s  been branded an “absolute disgrace” by the Adelaide Advertising and Design Club. 

“More alarmingly, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” AADC said in an email to members.

“In its entirety, the SA government is the largest advertising client in the state. If taxpayers’ money continues to be sent east, it will adversely impact hundreds, if not thousands of livelihoods and supercharge the brain-drain.”

That may be so but shouldn’t the contract be awarded to the company best placed to deliver?

Imagine if SATC restricted the contract bidding to local companies only – then there’d be an outcry about old boys clubs, nepotism and indeed parocialism, which has no place in tourism marketing.

There is also an argument that an outsider’s eyes may in fact have a better perspective on what makes the destination appealing to visitors.

Either way it’s a no-win situation for SATC – which has now been asked to explain the decision by SA Premier Steven Marshall.

But a very interesting debate all the same and one that will resonate with tourism marketers around the world.

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