In this guest post, Mike Drysdale (pictured below), general manager of Dear Storyteller, writes that he liked what he saw with The Monkeys’ annual lamb ad. He liked it even more that it didn’t mention the 26th of January…
The Lost Country of the Pacific, a short film by Australian Lamb, is as close as Australia gets to a blockbuster ad.
Equal parts spectacle and narrative, the three-minute epic arrests the audience’s attention with a melodramatic set up and story. It then builds on that entertaining introduction by dropping almost every cultural reference that could be made about the current state of the world.
An ad like this is crafted through deliberate creative development precisely to avoid looking or feeling like an ad. The result is something much more cinematic. Importantly, lamb is not the focus. Instead, it’s presented simply as a delicious-looking part of the larger story.
The premise may be absurd, and the execution feels familiar to Australian Lamb ads of the past. But those conventions don’t detract from the end result, in contrast, they further cement the Australian Lamb brand and present a kind reassuring familiarity to the ad overall.
Campaigns that live within the current cultural landscape and allude to current events feel magnetic; it’s hard to look away.
Once you start to see references to topics you’ve thought about recently, you look out for more. You’re transfixed by the next Easter egg and feel compelled to discover if it will mirror your experience.
So, what did get mentioned?
Interstate border closures, overseas travel, Westralia, the rise of State Premiers, billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in space, conspiracy theorists believing in Australia being a “fake country”, sport bubbles, Victorian lockdowns, French submarines, fruit picking backpackers, and more.
Jam-packed with references to current cultural dialogue, the campaign builds connection with its audience. Each of the cues used draws out an emotional response from viewers across a wide variety of world views.
Fascinatingly, the ad made no mention of COVID-19 and no mention of Australia Day. Considering the breadth of references tied into this campaign, these gaps are hard to ignore.
Australian Lamb’s ads have come out around this time every year for over a decade. Notably, it wouldn’t be surprising if every previous year’s version had mentioned January 26th.
This suggests that change is afoot. Brands that were previously loud supporters of Australia Day are now reading the change in public opinion around it and adjusting their messaging.
Notably, Australian Lamb’s Youtube channel has videos dating back five years, but their previous campaigns are unavailable.
This likely signals a larger movement away from messaging tied to Australia Day. January 26th was a promotional opportunity for many years, but times have changed. Instead, iconic brands like Cricket Australia, Triple J, and Australian Lamb are choosing to take their brands down different paths. January 26th just risks alienating too many people.
Similarly omitted was any specific mention of COVID-19. We can likely assume this is due to the pandemic fatigue felt by audiences across the nation. Many brands are refraining from tying heavy messaging on the COVID-19 pandemic to their business.
All of this comes despite the fact that the story hinges on the impact of the pandemic. Showing the flow-on effects such as lockdowns, State Premiers, and empty airports.
This cheeky, topical piece quickly hit the #1 trending spot on YouTube. It had its audience laughing, crying, and most importantly, talking.
It’s a marketing sweet spot. In re-watching the video and sharing it with their own networks, viewers engage with the campaign time and time again. This builds free awareness for the product and adds to the wider dialogue.
Advertising and culture are invaluable bedfellows when brought together by skilled hands. Whether it’s a campaign that becomes a cultural phenomenon or one that emulates and embodies culture by collaborating with cultural icons and leaders. Or a campaign like this, that masterfully speaks to real world events and reflects our experiences back to us in a meaningful way.
These are the campaigns we care about because they care about us. They pay attention to the things we love and they join the conversation. They don’t selfishly or obnoxiously just start one of their own. It’s a question every marketer should ask themselves at the outset of a consumer facing, brand campaign, does this speak to culture?
In some cases, like COVID-19, no matter how present it is in our everyday lives it’s not something we want to associate with our brand. In the case of Australia Day – brands like Australian Lamb, Triple J, Cricket Australia, and many Australians collectively, have made one thing clear; January 26th is not part of our culture anymore.
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