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Complaints soar over 'politically incorrect' Australia Day ads

Published on The Sydney Morning Herald written by Brooke Gibbs.

Australia Day advertising campaigns are fraught with danger as society becomes more politically correct and complaints soar, say industry experts.

The Meat & Livestock Australia's lamb advertising campaign, which has been running for 14 years, has again been one of the most controversial Australia Day ads this year.

The lamb ad depicts a stand-off between the left and right in today's society trying to achieve "political correctness" in a dance battle. They eventually unite over a barbecue.

Meat & Livestock Australia has given the ad a Broadway musical makeover this year and, for the second time, does not mention the controversial date of Australia Day.

Swinburne University of Technology, advertising lecturer David Reid, said the 2018 lamb ad was an excellent campaign from a creative point of view but said it was always going to be controversial as it plays on stereotypes.

"Perhaps [brands could actually be looking for controversy as a way to boost sales,] but the agency and brand, Meat & Livestock Australia, understand there is a public debate and they are simply creatively interpreting that," Mr Reid said.

For Australia Day campaigns, in particular, context becomes extremely important as the day is becoming increasingly politicised, Mr Reid said. He said former Labor leader Mark Latham's 'Save Australia Day' campaign, pushing for Australia Day to remain on January 26, was an advertising fail that was "embarrassing for its creative and strategic immaturity".

The campaign depicts a dystopian Australia where the mention of Australia Day celebrations create pure fear. In the ad, a girl is seen running to her mother with a "Happy Australia Day card". This act horrifies her mother who asks if she has shown the card to anyone else before putting it in the shredder. Actors glare into their PC surveillance cameras in fear that them buying lamb chops or mentioning Australia Day will result in them getting punished in a Orwellian society.

"'Save Australia Day' will gain traction as it uses fear as its main appeal. I know Australians are mature and intelligent enough to see behind its ignorance and simplicity," Mr Reid said.

Marketing Eye founder and managing director Mellissah Smith said had noticed a significant cultural shift in advertising companies mixing politics into their campaign to show how progressive they have become and credits this to the increasing number of millennials in the workforce.

"Their voice and reason to create a world that has less prejudice, is open to gender and marriage equality, and in general are more understanding of mental health, bullying and people's differences, is being heard and making older generations think twice," she said.

Ms Smith said the most effective Australia Day campaigns are the ones that talk down the date and focus greatly on mateship and community in a positive way to keep your brand there over that period of time without isolating any particular groups..

"I am sure you will find that many people are compassionate to the true owners of the country, and feel that although not enough thought has gone into it previously, celebrating each other and the true owners of the land in a respectful way, will unite Australians," she said.

For Ms Smith, her favourite marketing fail was the 2016 lamb advertisement revolving around vegans.

The ad featuring SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin received more than 600 hundred complaints relating to a scene where a vegan's kale is destroyed by commandos, which forced the Australian Standards Board to hold an urgent hearing into the ad, which became the second-most complained about of 2016.

When asked what usually goes wrong during these campaigns, Ms Smith said, "With society being so politically correct, I think there are now too many Australians who feel that Australia Day is inconsiderate to indigenous Australians and disrespectful."

Some of the most controversial Australia Day advertising campaigns include
  • Meat & Livestock Australia (2018) - 'Lamb Side Story'
  • Meat & Livestock Australia (2016) - 'Operation Boomerang'
  • Mark Latham's 'Save Australia Day' (2018)
  • Meat & Livestock Australia (2017) - 'Aren't we all boat people?'
  • Meat & Livestock (2015) - 'You Never Lamb Alone'
Source: smh

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