Cash for tweets scandal makes Kangaroo Island hot topic
Kangaroo Island has become a Twitter sensation after it was revealed the South Australian Tourism Commission is paying celebrities for tweeting about the holiday destination.
ABC's Media Watch on Monday revealed that the state government tourist board is paying between twelve and sixteen celebrities $750 plus GST per tweet to promote Kangaroo Island to their followers.
Singer Shannon Noll wrote in one tweet: "I heard Kangaroo Island is awesome!", while chef Matt Moran wrote: "Saw the TV ad last night and makes me wish I was visiting sooner rather than later".
Excited about going to kangaroo island tomorrow! First time and about time I saw all that amazing produce that I've been using for years!— Matt Moran (@chefmattmoran) April 20, 2012
South Australian Tourism Commission general manager Rik Morris defended the marketing strategy.
"We believe it's a legitimate marketing tool," Mr Morris said.
"This is something that's not just done by us, it's throughout the tweeting world - just yesterday [model] Megan Gale was telling people about how fabulous her Foxtel was... now I'm sure she wasn't doing that for free."
Mr Morris said the community as a whole needs to have a conversation about Twitter and discuss if it's a type of media that needs some kind of regulation.
"This is an area that hasn't been discussed publicly," he said.
"We're saying - let's talk about it and if the consensus is that this shouldn't be happening and the government feels, as other governments have suggested, that it needs to be more tightly regulated then fine, that's something to be decided."
Mr Morris said the tweeting campaign was part of a broader $6 million Kangaroo Island marketing campaign that includes the current television advertisement. He said around $10,000 was spent on celebrity tweets, he said.
Meanwhile, lawyer Stephen von Muenster, principal at von Muenster Solicitors & Attorneys, told media, marketing and entertainment website Mumbrella that paying for tweets could breach Australian Consumer Law.
"In certain circumstances, blogs including microblogs such as tweets that purport to be a genuine unsolicited celebrity testimonial when they are not may be a breach of Section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law, which prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct," he told Mumbrella.