In this guest post, brand strategist and owner of The Tall Planner, Kate Smither (lead image), says The Monkey’s recent work on The Uluru Statement is not merely a beautiful ad, it’s a beautiful example of ad making….
Often, it’s about the newest technique, the latest platform, a soundtrack, the post, a gag or the fear of a gag not being PC. Some of the time, there are layers of metaphors, messages and even some nods to purpose. Advertising has become quite serious and quite easily distracted by the shiny things at the same time. It is in danger of overthinking itself more often than not.
That’s what makes The Monkeys’ Uluru Statement ad “History is calling” so powerful. It’s a perfect study in restraint. It’s a perfect example of why Keeping It Simple (Stupid) is so important.
Sure, the ad itself is beautiful, beautifully shot, delivered, written and directed. But that isn’t what actually makes it beautiful. It is beautiful because it is choiceful. At no point has it lost its fight to keep the message simple, clear and single minded.
At no point has it been distracted.
And when it comes to an issue as complex as constitutional change, Indigenous rights and referendums, it is very easy to do the exact opposite. Distraction is the easy way, it’s simple that’s hard
That’s because the worry is always there, that somehow they’d get the message wrong, or that they’d leave something out. That typically leads to a whole lot complication and overcompensation. But this ad (and credit to the team behind it, both agency and client) has been left single mindedly intact.
It’s been left to breathe.
I’ve been watching and waiting to see how the advertising would roll out for the referendum. Partly from a sadistic fascination with how ideas work, a love of politics, an obsession with simplicity and largely in part from a desperate fear that we’d FK it up and any advertising would just add to the already complex
The “voice to parliament” as a phrase is not one that is easily understood and it can easily become bogged down by all the questions, what does it really mean?, how does it work? What difference does it make? What will it change? And how will it work? My worry was that the advertising would get distracted trying to answer all of those big questions in 30seconds.
I think it was Einstein who said “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” and “History is calling” shows that it absolutely understands the complexity, but more importantly it understands what it can do to simplify it.
“History is calling” knows it can’t pack 300 different opinions into one ad. It can’t take people down a constitutional rabbit hole, nor can it instruct you exactly what to do at a referendum for which the date is not even set
But it can make the message of why voting “yes” is important, simple. And that’s a simplicity that takes huge bravery to just say “…60,000 years they’ve been speaking, in 363 languages, but no voice, no say in matters that affected them”
It doesn’t avoid the issue, nor does it hide it and it does it all without a fear of dumbing it down. Instead it reframes the issue through a human truth that lets everyone connect to it. This brutal simplicity makes it an issue shared by all Australians. It makes it something we can change just by agreeing with the truth that having a say “isn’t right”.it doesn’t rely on celebrities to put out the call to Australia to act. Instead, it tells a story, with honesty and restraint, not melodrama, comedy or fame.
”History is calling” doesn’t rely on futuristic settings, on celebrity spokespeople it simply tells a story of change in real time, ignoring past, present or future and collapsing the referendum into a narrative for today’s Australia. The ad deftly echoes the Indigenous storytelling culture itself as a culture that is living and where storytelling creates and curates in every moment.
It lets that storytelling bring a decision that will happen next year, into today
And the today it brings it into is one where Aussies are embracing a new sense of pragmatism and a more paired back attitude to life. It comes into a today where Aussies are responding more and more to the logical, insightful and the empathetic. To the simple, and to the ads that do what advertising has always been designed to do…. actually communicate.
“History is calling” is a platform designed to build communications on for the next 6-12 months before the referendum actually happens. From the hint of badges, to the murals, to a logo and the consistent use of “speaking phrases”, it has a whole communications ecosystem written into every frame. From a traditional launch of TV and PR, it gently sets up its campaign future. You can see how it could even carry an overt CTA as it gets closer to the vote. Oddly enough, adding a “now” doesn’t seem to corrupt the simplicity or the sentiment.
“History is calling” does many things, many important things at that, but it also just reminds us all what our industry can do at its best. It can keep it simple. It reminds us that simple might be hard to do but when you do it works the hardest.
With the final question wording yet to be locked down, Prime Minister Albanese has gone on record to say it has to be a simple question that can be answered with an equally simple “yes” or “ no”. Perhaps the lead could be taken by the advertising…”Should First Nations peoples have a say in all the matters that affect them?”
It might not be the perfect wording, but it’s certainly a simple place to start