UTS Library

Liquids, Aerosols & Gels



PR Company: 


Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2007 C1 - 7



Executive Summary: 


Implement the new regulations while minimising passenger inconvenience and resulting damage to Australia’s reputation.


  1. Change the behaviour of international travellers to include preparations for transporting liquids, aerosols and gels;
  2. Simplify and convey complex messages to travellers; airport retailers; security staff and travel agents about compliance with new regulations;
  3. Consult effectively with government and industry stakeholders;
  4. Demonstrate the Government’s commitment to providing for a secure travelling environment (and working in partnership with industry to do so); and
  5. Minimise consumer complaints associated with the introduction of new regulations.

To reduce the threat of terrorism, the Australian Government set out to introduce, restrictions on the liquids aerosols and gels (LAGs) passengers take in their carry-on luggage on international flights.

The Department of Transport and Regional Services was responsible for implementing the new security measures at Australia’s eight international airports, beginning 31 March 2007.

Given the large volume of passengers who travel internationally, it was clear from the start that this was more than an issue of compliance. It was an issue of Australia’s reputation.

The risks of passenger delays and disrupted air schedules were increased by the high volume of Easter travellers in the week that would follow commencement and the complexities of dealing with duty free purchases in transit situations.

The goal was to protect Australia’s reputation and its aviation industries by minimising disruption at airports during the first days of implementation.

A research-based communications strategy was developed and implemented over a four-month period. It brought together professionals in several communications disciplines: public relations; research; graphic design; advertising; project and media relations and corporate communications. It engaged a host of industry and government stakeholders and used a full range of tactics in a manner that exceeded all expectations.

Situation Analysis: 


The Department of Transport and Regional Services (DOTARS) works through the Office of Transport Security (OTS) to create a transport system that is more secure against terrorism. It is the Australian Government’s primary advisor on transport security and the security regulator for the Australian Aviation and Maritime transport industry.

In August 2006, British authorities foiled a plot to smuggle liquid explosives concealed in commercial liquid containers onto passenger aircraft. In response, governments around the world moved to restrict the volume of liquids aerosols and gels (LAGs) which passengers take aboard international flights.  

The Australian Government made a commitment to introduce new restrictions on LAGs by a specified date: 31 March 2007, just one week before the Easter travel period.

The Challenge

Australians rely on their international airports, with 8 percent of all departures originating from eight of them: Sydney; Adelaide; Brisbane; Cairns; Darwin; Gold Coast; Melbourne; and Perth.

Of 43.5 million annual departures, 10.5 million head for international ports and would therefore be subject to LAGs regulations.

This translated into 10.5 million opportunities for tourists and business travellers to become confused, delayed and disenchanted with Australia. In a year when we were to host thousands of delegates and journalists as part of its APEC year, it was clear that this was an issue of protecting Australia’s reputation.

The new regulations meant new training for airport security staff and airline counter staff. Duty free shops would also need information and advice to pass on to their customers.

A Public Relations Solution

The scope of the project and the tight timeframes involved called for the expertise of a public relations firm with organisational and issues management experience in order to deal with the variety of stakeholders, on controversial issues.

The decision was made to engage public relations expertise to assist and support this communications effort.


Melbourne-based Di Marzio Research Ltd was engaged to conduct research at three stages in the project – start, midpoint and completion.

First, market development research was done to confirm the assumptions in the communications plan; inform development of the detailed communications plan; its messages and products. To assess the attitudes of travellers and learn how they wanted us to communicate with them, the research had both qualitative and quantitative components.

Focus groups and Internet surveys tested public attitudes toward the new measures and gauged the suitability of planned communications channels and products by seeking feedback on collateral used in other countries.

Second, at the midpoint of the project, we assessed the overall penetration of our messages to date, to determine if we needed to enhance our tactics.

Telephone surveys were used at a later stage to assess whether or not an advertising campaign was needed. Afterward, telephone surveys helped gauge the overall effectiveness of the media relations and advertising campaigns.

This research told us that while we were making progress, given our deadlines, we needed to invest in more direct approaches to reach our audiences.

Third, at the end of the project we conducted a telephone survey to assess whether or not our approach had been successful.

This work helped the project staff track changes in attitude and our meetings with industry helped identify new products. In the end, the results showed an increase in overall awareness of the new measures from 51percent to 74 percent in three weeks.

Other research occurred through consultations with airports, airlines, security staff, travel agents and the duty free industry as well as ongoing media monitoring and analysis.

Target Policies: 

Primary Audience: Those whose behaviour we wanted to change:

  • Members of the travelling public – required to comply
  • Ticket issuers; travel agents; Airport retailers and duty free shop operators – needed to inform travellers

Secondary Audience: Those who needed to adjust their procedures, processes or operations:

  • Security companies and staff – for training and implementation
  • Australian Embassies – to advise travellers and local staff
  • Related Government Departments including AFP; Customs; AQIS – implementers
  • OTS State Managers / Overseas Managers – required to assess compliance

Tertiary Audience: Transmitters of our messages:

  • Mainstream news and lifestyle media;
  • Travel writers and editors and air travel industry news media 
  • Travel web site operators

Each of these audiences was given targeted information to help them understand the new rules so they could comply with them; implement them; or convey them to broader audiences.

Communication Strategy: 

A Communications Strategy was developed over a brief period, in an evolving policy context. It was later polished into an action plan by our public relations consultant, Sydney-based Reputation.

For cost reasons, the plan was based on leveraging the communications efforts of those who were already in the business of communicating with international travellers: airlines, airports, travel agents and selected government departments.

This approach was complemented by a media relations strategy aimed at building both national and local presences for the story. The Deputy Secretary of DOTARS would play a key role in communicating our messages on radio and TV during the month before commencement.

Plans to do advertising on a massive scale were delayed until the impact of our communications efforts could be assessed. Ultimately it was decided to invest in a series of half page advertisements in papers in all capital and major metropolitan areas.

Goals and Objectives

  • Change the behaviour of international travellers to include preparations for transporting liquids, aerosols and gels
  • Simplify and convey complex messages to travellers; airport retailers; security staff and travel agents about compliance with new regulations
  • Consult effectively with government and industry stakeholders
  • Demonstrate the Government’s commitment to providing for a secure travelling environment (and working in partnership with industry to do so); and
  • Minimise consumer complaints associated with the introduction of new regulations.

Elements of the Plan

The key elements of the strategy included:

  • Research-based strategies and designs
  • Appropriate resourcing
  • Industry consultation, engagement and training
  • Distribution through travel agents and airlines
  • Providing editorial content for existing travel magazines and web-sites;
  • Active media relations
  • Helping passengers at airports through a personal, light-hearted approach
  • Coordinated issues management.

There was a contingency for advertising, but the department decided to pursue other avenues before investing in advertising;


Professional expertise was engaged in January 2007. Reputation (Sydney) provided public relations advice, copywriting and media relations and logistical support;. digitaldogma (Melbourne) developed print and multimedia materials; and Di Marzio Research Ltd (Melbourne) conducted market research.

A series of focus groups and internet surveys were conducted and after a series of stakeholder mapping exercises, a detailed action plan was prepared. Reporting mechanisms and regular project management meetings scheduled.


Given the vastness of "the travelling public" audience, the Department aimed to leverage the communications channels of those are in the business of communicating with travellers: airports, airlines, travel agents, travel media, and on-line travel information services.

Articles were placed in the in-flight magazines of QANTAS, Virgin and other all airlines flying into Australia. Information was also provided to the Department of Foreign Affairs for distribution at consular offices and on its SMART TRAVELLER web site.

Media and media relations

The Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile issued news releases and held news conferences in Canberra, Adelaide and Sydney and appeared on the AM news shows.

The Deputy Secretary of the Department conducted an effective media tour, drawing local media to eight international airports, helping to demonstrate partnership with industry and making the story locally relevant.

Print and Multimedia Collateral

Melbourne-based digitaldogma developed an inventory of print and multimedia collateral based on consistent, simple messages; a hero image of a regulation "LAGs bag"; and a graphic demonstrating procedures and decision points for travellers.

Recognising the increasing diversity of the travelling public, the primary brochure was translated into 11 languages (Arabic; Cantonese; Mandarin; Indonesian; Japanese; Korean; Malay; Russian; Spanish; Thai; and Vietnamese). This material was distributed to APEC members at selected meetings.

Other tools were provided for airports and air lines such as counter-top reminders; posters; staff reminder cards, posters and displays, some of which were tailored to the needs of specific airports.

Information on Demand

DOTARS operated e-mail and telephone enquiry lines and posted information on its web site and the Smart Traveller web site. Information was provided to the public at the Avalon Air Show and the Travel Expos in Sydney and Adelaide. High resolution images were posted for use by the media.


At the appropriate time, additional research was done to assess whether or not a greater investment was required. When a telephone survey indicated that public awareness of the new regulations we still at 54 percent, DOTARS invested in a brief but intensive advertising campaign.

Issues Management

During the 31 March weekend, DOTARS consulted airport communications managers and monitored media coverage to assess emerging issues. The results were better than expected.


  • Overall, results exceeded expectations. We met our goal of implementing the new regulations with minimal public inconvenience and as a consequence, Australia’s reputation did not suffer.
  • On 31 March, journalists looking for congested lines and distraught passengers found few if any. Airport communications managers all reported order and smiles, with minimal materials being surrendered. Sydney Airport reported that, after processing 40 000 international passengers, only 400 items had been surrendered. Media coverage reinforced this.
  • By providing consistent, illustrated information in our publications, posters and ads, we helped the public make appropriate preparations for their trips and helped minimise consumer complaints associated with the introduction of new regulations. We printed 14 million brochures in a ten languages and distributed them through Australian and international travel agents and airlines. Airports were provided with tailored signage. Internet and telephone hotline staff provided clarification about the new rules.
  • There is no doubt that much credit goes to the airport and airline managers and to security staff. We demonstrated the Government’s commitment to providing for a secure travelling environment (and working in partnership with industry to do so).
  • Compliance officers, airlines, travel agents, airport retailers and travellers were provided with the training and/or information they needed to do their jobs.
  • We received positive feedback from airport corporations about how smoothly the transition had gone. Media coverage of the transition was overwhelmingly positive.


The Department’s efforts exceeded expectations. Australia’s reputation was upheld, and enhanced. If anything it was enhanced by the smooth introduction of the regulations. Interestingly, some airports reported that passenger screening was taking place faster than before introduction of the new regulations, because passengers were better prepared.

Research results demonstrated that awareness of the LAGs initiative climbed from 52 percent in March to 74 percent in April 2007, thanks in large part to our media relations efforts and our advertising.

The use of extra customer service representatives in-situ at airports was particularly successful in maintaining calm among passengers.

Our consultations with industry and government stakeholders were positive and contributed insights that improved the implementation of the campaign.