Why Is Adland So Scared Of Australia Day?

Why Is Adland So Scared Of Australia Day?

In this guest post, Paul Costantoura from Sydney-based brand and marketing firm Review Partners has done an annual review (which you can read here) of this year’s Australia Day campaigns and here he talks what worked and what fizzled… 

Australian advertisers avoided Australia Day 2018, perhaps spooked by the perceived support for the #changethedate campaign.

However, that support is not as strong as you might expect, according to research which looked at responses to the main TV ads that ran in the lead up to January 26th.

Take the Mark Latham ad for example.  It seems that everyone in the media thought he was crazy for running his anti-ad about people scared of celebrating Australia Day for fear of the Thought Police.


However, in testing against five TV ads that were run in the lead up to Australia Day and it turns out that more people liked the Latham ad and thought it had a better message than this year’s lamb ad.

In fact, just under half (49 per cent) said they liked (or loved) the Latham ad and the same number thought it had a good (or very good) message.


The ad evaluation was part of a larger study into attitudes towards Australia Day which we ran with support from Research Now SSI.  We asked media monitoring agency Ebiquity to scan advertising in the two weeks leading up to 26 Jan and they could only find five TV ads that had national exposure.

One of the main findings of the study was that there has only been a marginal shift in attitudes about Australia Day since 2017.  Importantly, the gap has actually widened between those in favour of change and those against, giving a stronger lead to the no case.

The study found that, if a referendum on the issue were held over the Australia Day weekend, the result would have been 27 per cent yes and 73 per cent no – which does not suggest a groundswell of change among the population. The full report can be found here.

On the surface the response to the Latham ad might confirm the fears of pro change-the-date advocates that most Australians are insensitive to the issue.

But these responses raise some important questions for the future of advertising on our national day and what it means for Australian identity.

In previous years there has been a tradition for advertisers to send us up on Australia Day by focusing on some aspect of Australian identity.

In 2018 that focus on the day was eliminated almost entirely with no major brands (apart from supermarkets) taking out substantial advertising time or space.

Even the content of the lamb industry ad said virtually nothing about Australia Day this year.  The only connection was the timing of the media buy in the weeks leading up to it.

Most observers assume that the #changethedate campaign has had some effect on advertiser’s decisions since the sub-text of the #changethedate message is that nobody should have anything to celebrate until the date is changed.

However, the ad that won the popular vote in the research was one by Alice Springs Indigenous Councillor Jacinta Price speaking on behalf of part of the Indigenous population.  She explained why she thought that we should keep Australia Day and focus instead on Indigenous disadvantage rather than symbolism.

Jacinta Price


A total of 57 per cent liked it and 63 per cent thought it carried a good message.

So, if the #changethedate campaign is not currently changing attitudes towards Australia Day, it points to the current negative message not working.  The research also tested positive messages of Indigenous recognition and found strong support.

It’s possible to argue that gay pride brought about the change in attitudes towards gay marriage.  So perhaps there is scope for a greater emphasis on Indigenous pride in swaying the views of non-Indigenous people.

The second highly rated ad featured former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty in a simple ad where she explained how she was spending Australia Day with friends, reflecting on how lucky we are to live here.

Her sentiments were liked by 54 per cent while 62 per cent thought it was a good message.

Rosie Batty


Australia Day stalwart Sam Kekovich also played his part (in addition to his cameo as the angry guy with the hose in the lamb ad) by doing his bit for paint company Inspirations Paint and the decks of Australia.

The ad was classic Sam, even though 38 per cent of people didn’t emotionally engage with the topic and 48 per cent had no real opinion about its message (and presumably didn’t need decking oil).


It was print and internet advertising where some advertisers decided to express their version of the true meaning of Australia Day.

Specsavers went with fat blokes with poor eyesight at the cricket.

60-Specsavers opticians

Haynes paint put their own spin on modern art meets the Aussie thong.

24-PaintRight paint retailer

Liquor barons attempted to portray Australian diversity on Cottesloe Beach.

45-Liquor Barons alcohol retailer

Probably the winner for capturing the essence of Australia Day in the Northern Territory was the Hotel Darwin – which promised ‘The World’s Least Crap Pub Trivia’.

19-HDTBeachfront HotelPit Lane Liquor alcohol retailers

They capped off the day with the health-defying challenge of a prawn eating competition combined with free Corona and $25 cocktail jugs.

18-HD Hotel Darwin bar

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