Fresh from its launch of the Baz Lurhmann-directed ‘Come Walkabout’ campaign, Tourism Australia has announced that its sponsorship of an online reality show on social networking site Bebo has been a raging success, which has been viewed by 18 million people in Britain and Ireland.

The Australian reported that the local arm of Procter and Gamble, Jetstar and Tourism Australia were among global advertisers of The Gap Year, which follows six Bebo users from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Britain and the US on a globe-trotting holiday.

The show has reportedly broken new ground in internet media, taking the reality genre online and making it easier to integrate advertisers brands than has been the case for other genres, such as online dramas.

Tourism Australia started a ‘Work in Oz’ profile on the MySpace social networking site in May and followed this up last week with Tourism NSWs MySpace ‘MySydney’ campaign.

A spokeswoman from Tourism Australia says Working Holiday videos were viewed on Bebo more than 3.2 million times and other Australia videos on The Gap Year had racked up 9.2 million views.

Tourism Australia managing director Geoff Buckley believes online campaigns such as the Bebo and MySpace projects allowed people to “not only learn more about holidaying in Australia but to also share their holiday experiences with others and become advocates for our country”.

Some examples of brand integration on The Gap Year include a regular ‘Life in eye definition’ moment (sponsored by contact lens brand Acuvue), which involves Gap Year participant, Dave, travelling to a spectacular location and Bebo filming his reaction.

As part of its sponsorship, chewing gum brand Trident challenges Dave to a ‘Mess with your Head’ moment, which consisted capturing a crocodile at a Rockhampton reptile farm and checking that its breeding parts were intact. Fun and you learn something…