Campaign Review: MLA Lamb, Berlei, Surf Life Saving Australia and Koala

In this series, Mumbrella invites the industry's most senior creatives and strategists to offer their views on the latest big marketing campaigns. This week: Rob Dougan, planning director at Clemenger BBDO Sydney, and Grant McAloon, executive creative director at Leo Burnett Sydney.

Brand: Meat and Livestock Australia
Agency: The Monkeys
The Verdict: The comedy lost its bite as the strategy fell flat

The Monkeys kicked off MLA’s Spring Lamb campaign by featuring gods, goddesses and religious figures in a non-religious woman’s backyard. The ad positioned MLA’s lamb as the meat which more people can eat.

Rob Dougan, planning director at Clemenger BBDO Sydney, says:

Dougan: “While the strategy of flirting with controversy to generate earned media has worked in the past, it falls flat here”

“It’s a good sign when a campaign gives you a pang of jealousy. And the recent lamb ads turned me green. The bar just keeps getting higher and higher as the brand tackles bigger issues with meatier messages. Racial equality, indigenous heritage… yes, YES.

“It’s a hard act to follow and I don’t envy The Monkey’s task of topping it.

“But that was racism, this is religion. They’re just not the same. While the strategy of flirting with controversy to generate earned media has worked in the past, it falls flat here. The strategy doesn’t have the same impact when applied to religion. It feels more superficial in a world where religion, according to the ABS results quoted in the ad (what, why?), is on the wane.

“A belting execution might have saved the spot but the comedy has lost its bite too. This dinner feels more like an awkward first date than a cosmic collision of faiths.

“In their desire to up the ante on controversy, the celebration of lamb has been relegated to leftovers. Maybe they’ll be better tomorrow?”

Grant McAloon, executive creative director, Leo Burnett Sydney, says:

McAloon: “It feels like it’s lacking not just energy, but purpose”

“Like many, I’ve been a fan of the lamb ads of late. They’ve carved out a provocative space for themselves, with timely messages, but putting aside the controversy surrounding the ad for the moment, this one doesn’t measure up to other recent efforts. It feels like it’s lacking not just energy, but purpose.

“Maybe it’s partly because the other ads spoke to issues the majority of Australians want to identify with, whereas religion, and the divisiveness it creates, is a rather more ‘global’ issue and isn’t quite as relevant. Having a date to focus on like Australia Day has also provided a backdrop that’s added meaning to their previous commercials. That’s missing here.

“On paper, it no doubt felt like it was taking on something that’s worth talking about, and I’m sure it read well. But when it comes to religion and advertising, you have to be respectful. Which means having to tip-toe around. And that means some creative compromises have to be made, especially when it comes to humour. So the edge gets blunted. And, to be frank, as a mainly secular country, I am not sure how much the majority of people are really engaged by the topic of religion to begin with.

“But clearly some are very engaged by it, so you’re playing with fire if you get things even slightly wrong. And so we come to the ‘controversy.’ It struck me when I first watched the ad that if the creators knew that you could never visually depict Muhammad, why did they think it was okay to put a Hindu god into an ad for meat? I am very sure they meant no harm, but there you go… Free PR, yes. Great PR? Maybe not. A lesson learned perhaps.

“Still, the MLA ads have become one of the few moments in advertising that people actively look forward to, so they are still in a good place to come back strong next time.”

Brand: Berlei
Agency: The Monkeys
The Verdict: It’s boldly honest and authentic with an insight and a message that is in tune

In its first work since winning the account in June, The Monkeys launched a new bra called ‘Womankind’ with the aim of helping women “be kind” to their breasts. The ad shows different women struggling to put on various bras.

Dougan says:

“Firstly, while I have a reasonable set of moobs, I’m not a woman. That said, I love this spot and I think (or hope) that it connects with women.

“This is a brilliant example of what’s possible when brand, name, and product line up perfectly with the times. Even me, a mere moob owner, gets the sense that this is a brand with a deep understanding of the audience and their current mood.

“The fact that Facebook banned the ad shows that maybe Zuck, previously of ‘hot or not’ fame, might not have the subtlety to recognise the difference between unnecessary sexualisation and a more substantive point about women deserving better.

“Berlei has this all wrapped up: an insight and a message so in tune it’s impossible to not get a bit emotional.  I’m sure it will pay dividends both commercial and cultural.”

McAloon says:

“This is an energetic, fresh and humorous take on a category that usually doesn’t engage that much. With a bold honesty it recognises some of the difficulties women go through and it has to be applauded for that.

“The ad doesn’t need too much done to it. I really like it. The Facebook ban was totally unwarranted, but on the flip side, it created awareness.

“It’s funny how prudish Facebook can be sometimes. With the world debating fake news, it’s silly to draw a line at showing an honest depiction of women’s breasts. How does that make sense?

“It’s refreshing to have seen progressive brands shifting towards using real people in their creative work of late. It’s authentic, healthy and there should be more of it.”

Brand: Surf Life Saving Australia
Agency: KWP
The Verdict: The ad was unexpected and traded the message for emotion

KWP won SBS’s Diversity Works Challenge, scoring $1m worth of airtime on SBS’s TV and digital outlets. The agency created the biggest above the line campaign for Surf Life Saving Australia featuring women and men of different races and religions struggling to swim in the ocean.

Dougan says:

“This spot gets me right in the gag reflex. Given my pathological fear of drowning the opening scenes result in a sharp rise in cortisol. It’s a great start but deeply unpleasant.

“As the ad continues however my planner OCD kicks in. Panic intensifies. To weave in their message of diversity the SLS have adopted a classic bait and switch approach. The problem is that the bait far outshines the switch.

“So, while the emotional response is strong, what are they trying to tell me? The CTA is ‘join your local club today’ so I guess that’s it. A ‘whoever you are, swim between the flags’ message would’ve made a lot more sense however.

“This spot trades message for emotion and leaves me panicked, but perplexed as a result.”

McAloon says:

“While this won $1m of airtime, I’d hazard a guess that the production budget to actually make the ad wasn’t huge. So, with that in mind, I think it does the job and hits the mark for the media space it was awarded.

“The image of someone drowning like this isn’t new, but with the characters changing throughout the ad, it gave me something I wasn’t expecting. So, by the end, I’d connected with it more than I thought I would when I started watching.

“But it would be interesting to look at what else can be done for Surf Life Saving Australia beyond television. They are part of our culture and part of our daily lives. Indeed, they are literally saving our lives. That’s a powerful base on which to do some effective communications.”

Brand: Koala
Agency: In-house
The Verdict: The ad reflects a small budget and doesn’t give a concise brand story

Mattress manufacturer Koala replicated its competitor De Rucci’s well-known ad located at Melbourne airport by imitating De Rucci’s serious face on an out-of-home ad.

Dougan says:

“The danger with this kind of campaign is that the spoof relies almost entirely on previous knowledge of the campaign being spoofed. Given that Mr De Rucci’s sombre European mug has been plastered on almost every available billboard around Sydney and Melbourne, I doubt that’ll be an issue for Mr De Koala.

“This campaign is a small budget work of art. Koala is getting the best of both worlds: stealing equity from a ludicrous competitor and spoofing a campaign that was literally begging for it.  It won’t have a long shelf life but with their cheeky tone of voice Koala will surely turn their guns on other spoof-worthy campaigns. Ben fatto Mr De Koala!”

McAloon says:

“This ad definitely reflects the small budget because they have not used an original thought. I understand what they are trying to do, but I’m not sure what they stand for. What does “least pretentious” mean when it comes to beds? I’m not sure what the brand story is that they are building, other than that they are a humorous company. By borrowing brand positioning from another company, it’s not clear what they are saying about themselves or how they will build the brand story going forward.

“It will certainly attract the eye of passers-by, and if they are familiar with the Derucci work, it will definitely elicit a smile, but I’m just not sure how much it will drive people to go to Koala. It they’re not familiar with the Derucci work, then there’s not much of a message at all.

“As a one-off stunt, it’s not a bad attention-grabbing exercise, and certainly a bit of fun, but a better longer-term strategy would have been to communicate their own brand story and what they stand for.

“They have definitely made a bit of a splash, but I am left asking the question, where to from here?”


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