Porn, weed and fireworks

Last weekend I was privileged to contribute to the Human Brochure – a world first initiative by Australian Capital Tourism to promote the nation’s capital city, Canberra.

When I told my friends that I was going down to Canberra for the weekend, they invariably asked: “Why..?”

You see, Canberra has a reputation among Australians as being boring. As the home of yawners such as Parliament and the High Court, Canberra is associated with porky politicians and pompous legal types.

Paradoxically, Canberra is also notorious well-known for its sale of X-rated erotica, its decriminalisation of cannabis, and its availability of pyrotechnics. Yep, our very own Amsterdam.

But like most places where people haven’t actually been, its reputation is about 20 years out of date.

And the Human Brochure set out to prove it.

Human Brochure logo

The idea of the Human Brochure was to invite 250 social media-savvy people to Canberra; feed them; shelter them; and cart them around to several major tourist attractions. In return, we were asked to “spread the word online” about “all the great things” we got up to.

I joined the Arts & Culture stream. We were treated to national treasures such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian National Botanic Gardens and Canberra Glassworks – not to mention lunch at Two Before Ten, dinner at Mezzalira and z’s at the Diamant Hotel.

That may sound excessive (and yes, we were spoiled out of our minds) but it all boils down to how much you value word-of-mouth marketing. The point of the exercise was for us to share our thoughts, opinions and experiences with our followers on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Sure, Australian Capital Tourism could have pumped the money into yet another traditional advertising campaign, but we all know how they’ve been tracking. Instead, they tapped into the power of personal influence.

Here are a few of my tweets…

I was mindful not to sound like an over zealous salesman. I endeavoured to present only genuine thoughts and share only real experiences. Luckily that was easy to do because I thoroughly enjoyed just about everything!

I did provide some constructive feedback to the National Museum (it conspicuously omits Parramatta, one of Australia’s most important historical places), and I suggested the NFSA play more of its precious footage to visitors (they have since pointed me to their excellent YouTube channel).

But miniscule gripes aside, I expect the Human Brochure will prove to be a roaring success. Not only was the glory of Canberra amplified throughout the social media metasphere, but the initiative itself was the subject of interstate media attention.

Time will tell whether ROI is achieved. My prediction is that other tourism boards will copy the Human Brochure concept, and that will be the ultimate endorsement.

Regardless, I can say hand on heart, I had a wonderful time in Canberra.

Even without the porn, weed and fireworks.

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12 Comments on “Porn, weed and fireworks”


  1. Sounds like an awesome child free weekend even without the porn, weed and fireworks :) I’ve never been to Canberra and I would love to go some day.

  2. Ryan Tracey Says:

    There was a “Family Fun” stream too – they went to kid-friendly places like Questacon, the Australian Institute of Sport, and the National Zoo.

    On a child-free weekend, I would recommend any of the places that I mentioned in this post. Others I would be interested in include the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Library. Basically anything with “National” in its name ;0)

  3. jouljet Says:

    Ha ha, a couple of the girls in the Food and Wine stream were VERY excited to see the High Court! It takes all sorts, right!?
    Great summary – I didn’t even know what you guys covered in the end! Such a busy weekend!
    I agree, rather than spending $$ on a Bingle, ACT have invested in the word of mouth of real people!

  4. Ryan Tracey Says:

    I suppose I was being unfair :0P

    I hear the tours of both Parliament Houses (Old & New) are actually quite interesting, as would be the High Court for some.

    Just goes to show the importance of multiple perspectives on such subjective matters.

  5. Imogen Says:

    Ryan, loved every word. A great read and so true re outdated rep – Canberra has moved on! Glad you had such a great time. Thank you for putting your thoughts out into the blogosphere – encourages me to do the same. We did the Family Fun stream and loved every minute. Best, Imogen.

  6. Ryan Tracey Says:

    Thanks Imogen. I’ll keep my eyes peeled on your blog!

  7. runwkate Says:

    I promise – the porn is over-rated, the fireworks aren’t available any more, and the weed – well, just head over to one of the universities ;-). Sound like you enjoyed the trip! It’s cool to hear about other streams (I was on adventure).

  8. Ryan Tracey Says:

    Lol! I think the Internet killed the porn industry, Australians are fireworks fatigued (or is that just Sydneysiders?) and the weed – yep, I don’t think any laws on personal use are going to make much of a difference to the culture of personal use. 20 years out of date sounds about right.

    I hear the adventure stream had a blast. Mountain biking, bushwalking, patting cheetahs, night clubbing… I’m tired just thinking about it.

  9. Sarah Says:

    I went to Canberra last weekend (not my choice) and went to the wineries – who knew Canberra had wineries, and good ones.

  10. Ryan Tracey Says:

    I know! It’s a local secret.

    The Food & Wine stream visited Capital Wines and they raved about it. I discovered Clonakilla – delicious!


  11. I think the best thing Canberra had ever invested in is the Skywhale…..http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/10048688/Canberras-Skywhale-splits-opinion.html It would have had to spend far more than $300000 in traditional marketing and advertising to even get a cursory mention in international circles- and instantly forgotten. THIS is what gets people talking. THIS is memorable. At the office yesterday, 8 people crowded around 1 laptop to look at it- and then spent a good 10 minutes debating it- some laughing at it, others loving it. I got home and showed my kids….and within a nansecond it was on their Facebook shares….and then their friends chimed in. THIS is how you make Canberra interesting! Well done to the brave souls who got behind this project!

  12. Ryan Tracey Says:

    I agree, Annalie. Love the Skywhale or hate it, it certainly puts Canberra front of mind. I think they could extend this concept by laying a melting clock over a building in the city, for example, to promote a Dali exhibition at the National Gallery.

    A point in contrast: Last night I was watching one of those quiz shows on TV and the host asked which song was used in Tourism Australia’s latest ad campaign. It was a multiple choice question and I still couldn’t pick the right answer!


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