How an Australian ad agency convinced Arnold Schwarzenegger to appear in its ads


He is a household name in Hollywood and the former governor of California, but Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest role has a distinctly Australian bent.

The famous bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician is the face of the latest advertising campaign, as the online property site repositions itself to become a destination for much more than just property listings.

Arnie is just one part of’s ‘Australia Lives Here’ story—the main character is Dylan, an Aussie who went looking for fame in Hollywood and ended up working for The Terminator star—and the campaign incorporates all facets of social media as well as TV and online video commercials.

The campaign was created by Australian advertising agency BWM, whose executive creative director Murray White and Melbourne managing director Mark Watkin told SmartCompany they used their Los Angeles connections to get the star involved.

“We believed we could get Arnie based on our contacts, and we’d both worked with celebrities before,” says White.

Seven of the campaign’s ads will feature Arnie, who confuses Australia with Austria and then goes on a journey of discovering the country, aided of course by Arnie’s clips were filmed in the one day, with the whole shoot taking three days, says White.

“Arnie has that star factor and [featuring him in the campaign] would allow us to announce REA in a bigger way,” he says. “He was the perfect choice.”

“Arnie has this amazing comedic talent that everyone has forgotten about and we knew if we could get the ‘funny Arnie’ on the day, we would have something special,” says White.

But BWM did not start out with the idea of building a campaign around Arnie. Instead, the campaign started with the simple aim to “take Australia’s number one real estate site and convince people it is about more than just listings”, says White.

“Property is such a national passion but it’s also a personal thing so we wanted to tap into this personal significance,” he says. “So it made sense to use Arnie’s journey of discovery of what REA can do for him, to show what it can do for any of us.”

“The discovery aspect is critical,” says Watkin. “We go on a journey with Arnie as he discovers this wonderful product and the accidental nature of it all provides the humour.”

But the duo says it was a conscious decision for Arnie not to become a spokesperson or representative for REA, and instead be a character in the story.

“And we made a clear blanket rule that Arnie would never deliver his well-known cliché lines,” says White. “That would have been tapping into his well-known characters instead of allowing him to grow.”

“The worst thing we could have done is given people the expected,” he says.

Watkin describes the campaign as a “confident” step for a brand such as REA and so far it has been received well: the videos have attracted more than 750,000 hits on YouTube since the launch at the start of the week.

Both White and Watkin say the process of building the campaign with REA was highly collaborative and the strong concept of ‘Australia Lives Here’ allowed the creative team to build a “narrative arc”, which will feed into an ongoing social media campaign.

“What you’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Watkin. “There’s a whole back story, it’s quite a deep campaign.”

And it’s a campaign that fits squarely within BWM’s philosophy of producing content that “gets Australians talking”, says Watkin.

“It has huge talkability, participation and engagement,” he says.

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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