Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Girt by sky

The Dutch airline KLM has been operating commercial flights between Europe and Australia since before World War II.

Judging from its graphic style, I would imagine that this ad dates from the late 50s… at a time when air hostesses looked a bit like this:

Six years ago, a merger took place between Air France and KLM. Europeans still visualize Sydney as a place with a vast harbor and a big bridge. But a new visual icon has slipped into the picture. Incidentally, there's an aspect of Sydney's Opera House that has always amused me. When tourists see a spectacular structure such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral or the Tower of London, they usually imagine stepping inside it for a visit. But I'm not sure that many tourists in Sydney would envisage buying tickets to see an opera!

In Sydney, visitors wander around the opera house in order to look up in admiration at the bridge, just as they walk over the bridge in order to be able to gaze down upon the opera house. It's a closed circuit.

I have frequent opportunities of confirming that French folk continue to imagine Australia as an exotic wonderland on the other side of the planet. Countless people tell me they dream of going there… but it's a bit like saying they want to take a ride in a hot-air balloon, or go on holidays in a horse-drawn caravan, or cross the canal system of France in a houseboat. It's something that people say they want to do, while rarely going one step further and deciding to actually do so.

When I look at the nice old-fashioned KLM poster, I'm convinced that this graphic style would still be perfect for modern publicity concerning Australia, because foreigners like to imagine it as a picture-book land. And Australians are surely happy to believe this, too. Indeed, the tourist authorities could attempt to persuade the municipality of Sydney to paint the arch of the bridge blue, the pylons pink and the waterside buildings yellow. Boat-owners would be encouraged to adorn their craft with dozens of brightly-colored flags. And the opening line of Dorothea's Mackellar's celebrated poem could be slightly modified to reflect our wishful thinking:

I love a colorful country.

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