Opinion

Adland shouldn’t discount the woman who was mistaken for a washing machine

Eight months ago, Take 5 editor-in-chief Paul Merrill launched a ‘Bumper Monthly’ edition of his weekly title. New Roy Morgan figures released last week revealed it has become the sixth most-read magazine at Australia’s newsstands. But according to Merrill, it’s a readership that few people know exists.

When Take 5 interviewed Linda, a 55-year-old real estate manager from just outside Adelaide, a gynaecologist had just mistaken her for a washing machine.

Later, Mel, 58, told us how she’d helpfully spiked her son’s Milo with Viagra just as he left for a romantic date.

Then just a few weeks ago, Tonia talked us through how she’s bought a $1.45 knife from a hardware store and then cut out her own breast implants.

Three bizarre events that had happened to three completely normal women.

Calling them ’normal’ almost seems patronising or insulting (‘ordinary’ would have been even worse) but they exemplify everyday battlers, sometimes doing it tough, but leading lives that most media folk have no idea exist.

They don’t know they exist because they never encounter them. That’s why they are shamefully ignored by so many advertisers, safely ensconced in their converted Woollahra lofts clutching a deconstructed cloud egg rainbow bagel wrapped in compostable bioplastic as they deliberate over their next Vera Wang satchel.

Their focus is affording their clients the glamorous ‘environment’ their products so richly deserve. And if the product in question is a can of beans, tube of haemorrhoid cream or snazzy new wet mop, the same snobby criteria apply.

Never mind the three million bean fans in Western Sydney or the masses of grocery buyers scattered across rural Queensland, the priority is the people they see on their drive into the CBDs from Toorak, Balmain or Mosman. This despite the fact that the disposable income enjoyed by this demographic can match or even exceed those in more moneyed suburbs.

In fairness Take 5 readers (all one million of them) aren’t always easy to find. For a start they’re more rural than urban and they tend to keep themselves to themselves rather than lobbying for attention. Nor are they necessarily ambitious in the traditional sense. They don’t, for example, all dream of becoming rich and famous, or judge their new wedges against Nicki Minaj’s Louboutins.

Instead, they aspire to be the best mums, wives or grandparents they can be, to put good food on the table and care for the ones they love while often holding down multiple jobs. Their heroes aren’t Kylie Jenner, Hilary Clinton or Cate Blanchett; they’re the people they know who have beaten seemingly impossible odds or shown bravery and resilience beyond comprehension.

The granny down the road who took in her ice addict daughter’s kids, the mate who survived cancer then raised thousands to help others embroiled in their own chemo journeys, the woman who gave up her dreams of a relaxing retirement to become a full-time carer to her stricken husband.

The reason Take 5 has so many readers is because it reflects their lives back at them, acting as a conduit for them to share their stories, tips and views with people just like them. It may be that not many had technically been mistaken for a washing machine, but the point is that all the dramatic, funny and shocking events could happen to someone like them.

They relate to the reader leading a run-of-the-mill existence until she discovered her husband was sleeping with her mum, they try to imagine how they‘d react if their nan was arrested for flashing at her own wedding and, as they read about a mum-of-four whose bestie tried to murder her with a strawberry cheesecake, they wonder if they would have uncovered the nefarious plot.

It’s far more interesting to read about an extraordinary incident affecting an ordinary person, than an extraordinary person like Ariana Grande pretending to be ordinary by being snapped shopping for sanitary towels or walking down Rodeo Drive in gym gear.

And, yes, there is plenty of schadenfreude involved: my life may be tough, but at least, like one surprised reader, I didn’t discover on my wedding night that my husband had a wooden leg.

To its audience, Take 5 is a close-knit community, a chinwag over the backyard fence, a break from the slog of everyday life. Sometimes the mag is the only treat the readers allow themselves as everything else goes on family. It’s certainly the most engaged readership as 35,000 enter our puzzles each week by posting off the answers, dreaming of winning a Toyota Corolla, smart TV or even a beanie fitted with headphones.

And, as a sizeable percentage of them cut out coupons, hoard shopper dockets, save up for surprisingly expensive holidays and are more likely to hunt down a bargain than be loyal to a brand, they should be an advertiser’s dream.

If only they were visible to the naked eye.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Linda the real estate manager was snoring so loudly in her holiday home that a guest in the next villa, who happened to be a gynaecologist, complained to the manager the next morning that someone thoughtless had had their washing on a spin cycle in the early hours.

Which of us can honestly say that hasn’t happened to us?

Paul Merrill is editor-in-chief at Bauer Media Australia’s Take 5.

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