Advertising Australia

You would think from all the media attention paid to Woolies decision not to stock Aussie-themed paraphernalia in the run-up to Australia Day that the push to cancel or relocate our national day away from the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet was continuing to grow in strength, but despite cricket captain Pat Cummins joining the push and despite the attention given to noisy ‘Invasion Day’ rallies, a majority of Australians, according to a Roy Morgan poll – 68.5% – still favour having an ‘Australia Day’, with a smaller majority – 58.5% – saying it should stay on January 26, which is about the same as when I wrote about it last year at this time, when it was 60% in favour of keeping it as is. 

Woolies tried to explain their policy by claiming a decline in sales of Aussie-themed paraphernalia such as flags and stubby holders.  CEO Brad Banducci also made the point that most of this tat is made in China anyway.  Fair enough, but I think he wasn’t telling the full story.  Other corporates have been more candid: last year, Kmart made a similar decision not to stock Australia Day merchandise, saying that it was about ‘being respectful and inclusive to all.’

Besides, Branducci was unable to explain why Woolies still puts up banners for the Indian festival of Diwali and for Chinese New Year, but not for Australia Day. 

‘Celebrations like Diwali and Lunar New Year are often centred around connection over food, and as a business we are committed to supporting events and occasions like this for our customers and team,’ he said. 

And Australia Day isn’t about food?  What about the traditional Australia Day barbie?

A propos of which, I was relieved to learn that one of my favourite Australia Day traditions had not fallen afoul of woke corporatism. 

I love those ads produced by Meat and Livestock Australia every year that feature Sam Kekovich urging us to get stuck into some good old Aussie lamb.  I was with some friends on Australia Day and we all shook our heads sadly at the apparent absence of such an ad this year.  On TV at any rate.  But it turns out we were just too old to know that they were only released on social media, where they were a roaring success, especially on TikTok. 

Last year’s ad did a wonderful job of showcasing Australia’s ethnic variety:  people from all our immigrant cultures coming together round the barbie to enjoy some lamb chops.  Indigenous people too, of course. 

This year MLA chose the theme of bringing the generations together over a shared love of lamb. 

As with the multicultural ad, this one is full of humour and visual jokes.  Young folks roll their eyes at the oldies’ inadvertently leaving their smartphone torch on.  A millennial couple (or is it Gen Z? I’m never sure of the difference) halfway up an indoor rock-climbing wall practice using the slang term ‘slay’ correctly.  (FYI, you use ‘slay’ to describe someone who has done so exceptionally well that they killed it.) 

A spokesperson for Meat and Livestock Australia said: “Pop culture would have us believe that the generations are practically different species. Apparently, Boomers are unable to master the basics of technology whilst Zoomers spend every waking moment making TikTok dances, and Millennials spend too much on avo toast and craft beer.’ 

The ad ends with the generation gap literally closing as young and old alike are enticed by the smell of grilling chops to come together around The Barbie.  Sam Kekovich is in charge of the tongs and as the generations mingle he declares ‘it’s a barbecue for the ages’.  One young fella asks ‘who’s that?’ and his companion answers ‘John Howard’.  It’s obvious neither of them knows who either John Howard or Sam Kekovich are.  Nice.  And funny. 

To my mind this is the way to do inclusiveness and diversity.  Make people laugh.  These lamb ads are up there with the best campaigns that succeed because they play to our sense of humour.  Think Yellow Pages and that gorgeous exasperated man looking for someone to fix his Goggomobile, and the one about the boss not happy with her employee Jan for failing to get the business listed in the Yellow Pages, rated by the industry as the best Aussie ad of all time.    

Incidentally, Savannah later gave the last month of her billboard lease over to a local charity called Clothing Please, tweaking the original image to make it more wholesome.