Ararat to capitalise on 'Biggest Loser' exposure

ARARAT - With The Biggest Loser: Challenge Australia set to screen on Channel Ten early next year Ararat Rural City Council has moved quickly to ensure that it capitalises on the exposure the region will receive throughout the series.

A special council meeting was held on Friday after Ararat Rural City Mayor, Cr Paul Hooper and CEO Andrew Evans were informed by Channel Ten executives earlier in the week of the screening schedule for the ninth season of the television program, which aims to transform Ararat from one of the most obese towns in the country to one of the fittest.

"It is starting early in the new year and they are starting to tease us with some shorts now, which is very exciting," Cr Hooper said.

"It is going to air a bit sooner than we anticipated it would. We called this special meeting because with the new information we need to act now to fully capitalise."

The Biggest Loser will be broadcast across the country and will put Ararat and the surrounding region in the spotlight for 11 weeks.

Council believes the exposure provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to promote the Ararat Rural City and the Grampians region as a picturesque place where people can raise a family or come to visit for outstanding vistas and exciting leisure opportunities.

Preparations are in full swing for a marketing campaign to be launched to coincide with the debut of the Ararat series.

It was initially thought that television advertising would be an appropriate marketing medium, however following further investigations via Channel Ten it was discovered that the costs of television advertising during The Biggest Loser ranges from $50,000 to $1,000,000 per advertisement to attract a national audience.

As this level of funds would be out of range for the Ararat Rural City, councillors on Friday voted for more practical options:

*A Public Relations company will be engaged to assist with professional messaging during the entire campaign and assist in the development of ongoing programs for the entire community and visitors.

*An online digital media profile will be developed which will include redesigning the ARC website that would market Ararat alongside the already existing corporate website and encourage 'a sharp, well managed social media presence'.

*Whilst the online promotion is occurring, in order to attract people to come and be part of the community, a number of 'Challenge Ararat' activities will also be taking place. This will complement the new round of pebbles to be issued at no charge, while people in the community will receive information and advice on physical activity and healthy eating.

Ararat Rural City Council manager community development and client services, Angela Hunt said since advertising in The Ararat Advertiser last Friday that more pebbles will be available, interest has already been generated.

"We will be doing a whole schedule of activities. Some will be at a cost and others will be free of charge, over at least that three month period (that the series airs), but really over the course of next year is the intent," she said.

"We are also looking to run an event on the first airing day which will be a large screening where the community can come and watch that first episode together.

"We will also have that as a registration day for new pebbles and have a nationalist around as well at that time to create that activity and continue the momentum."

No funding had been allocated for marketing of the campaign or for conducting a program of events and activities for the local community in the current budget.

CEO Andrew Evans said the relocation of funds from salary savings in the 2013/14 Economic Development Budget ($35,554) along with reserves of $39,336 and $25,000 from the Community Grants 2013/14 would see the $100,000 required become available.

"As part of the surplus that we had last year, we moved funds into a variety of reserves. So we are using money out of some of those reserves and it is an appropriate amount," he said.

"The mayor and I attended a screening (last week) at Gum San of the final three or four episodes, not that we got to see who won it, but I have got to say there was fantastic positivity and we need to ride on that."

A further opportunity was also identified to promote the series through the use of the billboard on the Western Highway East of Ararat which currently advertisers the Energy Park.

Cr Hooper said Channel Ten has expressed to Council an interest in advertising Challenge Australia on both sides of the billboard, with the company to pay for the replacing of the artwork on the billboard at an estimated cost of $8,000 to $10,000.

"The billboard...out at the old airport, Channel Ten are keen to get their hands on and it will be great exposure for the 6000-odd vehicles that go past on that road each day," he said.

"We will be aiming to get all of this happening by mid-January, but given the Christmas break I don't know if that is realistic.

"I think the senior members of the organisation at Council agree that 32 hours of prime time television marketing, the municipality will never get that opportunity again, and if we don't give it our best shot we are failing our community."

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