The Ultimate Endorsement – Oprah

An insight by Andrew Howie

She began her humble career reading the local news on radio at the age of 19. She was so talented that she was shifted to day time television. Her talents took a lowly rated Chicago day time show to the number one spot which prompted her to launch her own Production Company and show on the back of her talents.

Since then, she has gone from strength to strength, becoming America’s first African American billionaire. She has used that money for the greater good and spent around $40 million to launch the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. It is a school for poor and disadvantaged young girls, giving them an education and ultimately a better chance at life.

She is also said to possess the Midas touch. Products that she endorses or openly supports on her show have been known to experience sales spikes of anywhere up to 500%. No wonder many argue that she is the most influential woman in the world.

In 1996, Oprah gave away not one car, but one car to every audience member who attended her show. Not a bad little windfall for a few hours in a studio.

So, you can imagine the surprise on the audience faces recently when she announced her final ever show and the plans she had for this event. She hyped them up by offering up a few domestic US destinations which was enough to send a few of the women in the crowd into hysteria. But she really knocked their socks off when she let announced they were all off to Australia.

300 audience members will be accompanied by about 150 crew on the Down Under Junket. The cost to arrange such a trip? The NSW Government, in conjunction with Tourism Australia have put up $3 million to get her here.

During that time, she will film at least 2 shows and will broadcast those shows to around 145 countries. That is on top of the 40 million Americans expected to watch those episodes.

Given her ability to send sales for products through to roof, the bill of $3 million will no doubt be small change in comparison to what the campaign returns. A question remains about how you measure that.

Given that Tourism Australia have tried many different ways to boost visitors from foreign markets over the years, ranging from the super successful Paul Hogan campaigns of the 80’s to the less well received ‘Where the Bloody Hell are ya’ campaign of recent years, perhaps this form of celebrity endorsement is just the shot in the arm that the local economy needs?

There is one thing that you can’t deny: luring Oprah away from North America to film her final shows is a coup of mammoth proportions. It isn’t til September 2011. So the PR that is generated over the next 12 months will more than cover the $3 million bill. Now all we have to do is wait and see what it does for the Australian tourism industry.