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NSW Taxpayers Paid $100,000 To Create 'Opal Man': A Bloke With An Oversized Transport Card On His Head

The $100,000 man: Opal Man, mascot of the NSW Government’s new public transport electronic ticket. Source: YouTube

Look, on the train, on the ferry, on the bus. Is it a bird, is it a superhero?

No, it’s Opal Man, part of the NSW Government’s $5 million marketing campaign for its new Opal transport card.

Sticking a bloke in a foam headpiece that looks like an Opal card cost the NSW Government $100,000, Labor’s transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe claims.

Sharpe says documents obtained by the Opposition reveal the madmen at Ogilvy & Mather were paid $100,000 to come up with Opal Man: “the image of a person wearing an oversized rectangular Opal transport card costume”.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports around $10 million is being spent on marketing as part of the staggering $1.2 billion estimated cost for the successor to the aborted Tcard.

The Opal Card, which is already functioning, becomes more important for Sydney commuters on September 1, with 14 prepaid paper tickets being withdrawn from sale as Transport for NSW moves towards the electronic smart-card. Weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly and yearly MyTrain tickets are among those being scrapped, along with MyTrain concessions and some MyMulti tickets.

But the problem for Sydney’s long-suffering public transport users is that the usual ticket vendors, including Sydney Trains staff and even the Transport for NSW ticket kiosk at Circular Quay, are not selling Opal cards. When Business Insider asked about getting one, we were instead referred to a website.

Transport minister Gladys Berejiklian is already warning that train commuters face lengthy delays when the new regime kicks in on Monday.

“The key thing for me is just to make sure that people are aware they could be facing long queues on 1 September if they don’t have the Opal card,” she said.

Her solution is marketing. With $2.3 million being spent on Opal Man videos. Transport NSW has released four of them on YouTube. They have a romantic theme and include a blonde on a dinner date with Opal Man, a brunette on a ferry saying “This is what I’ve been looking for, someone to go places with, not a one off connection” and another blonde in a queue for tickets saying “All of a sudden he was there and changed everything”.

Nearly $5 million is being spent on ads and various marketing strategies, from social media to stickers, while a further $2.9 million has gone towards information and sales staff at train stations and Westfield shopping centres.

Penny Sharpe said the Transport Minister was wasting money employing temporary staff and pop-up kiosks to sell Opal Cards, rather than using existing train station staff.

“The question for the Transport Minister is why would you design a train ticket that can’t be bought at train stations?” she said.

“The Opal card is supposed to make using public transports easier. Yet there is nothing easy about having to be redirected hundreds of metres to an ‘authorised seller’ by train station staff who have been forbidden from selling you an Opal Card.”

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