Campaign Review: Pill Testing, Libra making ‘blood normal’, and Kosciuszko vs Great Northern

Mumbrella invites the industry’s creatives and strategists to offer their views on the most-talked-about ad campaigns. This week: Red Engine SCC's Duncan Shields, and The Royals' Michaela Futcher offer their views on Libra's bold move to make blood normal, Pill Testing Australia's thought-provoking campaign, and which beer ad is better.

Brand: Libra
Campaign: Blood Normal
Agency: AMV BBDO
The verdict: A modern statement that could do more

Duncan Shields, creative director at Red Engine SCC, says:

“Parts of this campaign really live up to the claim of destigmatising the issue of periods for young women. T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Bloody Awesome’ in support of the Share The Dignity organisation are great, for example. Working a period-based storyline into Neighbours is another smart move and will no doubt help to normalise discussion around the topic.

“It’s clear that the blood-on-the-pad discussion has sparked conversation about periods and maybe that’s enough to justify it in terms of destigmatising the subject, but I fail to see how this is empowering for women in it’s own right. It assumes that all women are OK with seeing other people’s pads and whilst I am not one, the few I’ve asked didn’t seem all that keen.

“The line ‘Periods are normal. Showing them should be too’ also seems to ignore the context of its own media schedule. There are many equally normal things that wouldn’t be normal to show at 4pm on national TV and I think a more targeted approach may have created less outrage. Either way, this campaign is doing exactly what it set out to do, it’s got people talking and it’s hard to ignore.”

Rating: 8/10

Michaela Futcher, head of strategy at The Royals, says:

“I am so torn by the #bloodnormal campaign.

“On one side, I have my clenched feminist fist held high in the air, shaking it to misogyny, celebrating the ‘lady balls’ it took to make this very modern and progressive statement that has really been too long coming. I’m inspired by the empowerment such a message can provide women and girls the world over, releasing them from the taboo of something that is so normal it should be, ultimately boring in this day and age. I’m thinking, ‘Power to you Libra, you’ve made an impact by challenging culture head on, you haven’t been afraid to offend, and most likely you will (and already have) changed the conversation around periods forever.’ It also makes bloody (sorry) good business sense for them to do this work – more conversation will lead to a more engaged shopper, and that will in turn rejuvenate a category that has seen very little innovation and change in many decades.

“But, on the other – maybe more cynical – side, I’m a bit less impressed. Because on this side I’m annoyed that this campaign has missed the chance to really sink its teeth into the issue – which is that women for too long have been disallowed from being fully engaged with their bodies, their health, their anatomy and the shared human experience of periods at a cultural level.

“The stigma and privacy of periods has caused many women to suffer – they’ve endured pain and shame, they’ve been confused by their own body and they’ve paid GST on goods that should never have had GST attached to them in the first place.

“Truth is, it’s not really the taboo of showing blood on television that needs to be normalised, it’s the narrative around women’s health, their unheard experiences and shared discomforts and frustrations that really need to be elevated. Libra is in a position of power to unlock this, but by focusing on normalising the representation of blood, they are merely monopolising on the ‘shock factor’ to create impact.

“There are so many untapped truths and opportunities in this category that if elevated could really change the next generation and their relationship with their bodies. #bloodnormal comes so close but gets lost in the act of fetishising an issue to disrupt versus create genuine cultural change and conversation. I love the little hints of truth in the ad, but I want more.

“Maybe I’m just being greedy.

“So, please don’t stop here Libra. There’s so much more work to be done.”

Rating: 8.5/10

Brand: Pill Testing Australia
Campaign: Bring Humanity Back
Agency: Hooligan Collective
The verdict: Puts a face to the issue

Shields says:

“On-screen peer pressure has so often been depicted in a similar vein to bullying so, when I saw this, the first thing that stood out to me was how refreshingly real it felt – ‘It’s OK to be a pussy’.

“The film captures peer pressure exactly the way I remember it when I was a real-life teenager – persuasive, alluring and not at all heavy handed. For that reason, I think it will resonate well with its intended audience of parents and decision-making 80’s kids alike.

“I am in complete support of pill testing so I’m slightly biased, but I think the film does an excellent job of putting a face to the issue. It’s the sort of work that I think will encourage a rational conversation rather than pour fuel on the fire, causing it to collapse. And that’s a pretty good thing in my book – great job all round.”

Rating: 8/10

NOTE: Michaela Futcher had a conflict, so did not review the Pill Testing Australia campaign 

Brand: Kosciuszko Pale Ale
Campaign: Beer with Altitude
Agency: 72 and Sunny
The verdict: Fun, with a lot of potential

Shields says:

“As a person who is more than partial to a good pun, I love the line ‘Beer with Altitude’. It’s super catchy and tells the story of who it’s for and where it comes from in three simple words which is pretty hard to fault. It’s a beer from the mountains for people who go to the mountains and drink beer… in the mountains… where this beer comes from.

“I can’t think of another brand, beer or otherwise, that would choose skiing as the background to their summer campaign and I think it’s a pretty smart move in standing out. Australian summer time is peak ski-season for serious boarders and skiers and with flights to Japan seemingly cheaper every year, it’s a group that’s likely to keep growing.

“The print appears to take cues from 1930’s travel posters with a visual style that has clearly been created to take advantage of a range of different channels. It’s a style I can see working especially well in digital and animated OOH placements.

“The TV iteration has great music, a clearly distinctive visual style for the category and the whole piece is a joyful, fun ride from start to finish.

“There’s nothing deep about it, no emotional complexity to dissect and pore over, just out and out joy which is exactly what I like about it. I’m sure it will serve them well.”

Rating: 8/10

Futcher says:

“‘Beer with Altitude’. That’s fun.

“Which is something we undoubtedly need more of these days. In a world of super-serious, hyper-authentic, rationalised-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life, because-the-data-said-so advertising, I love the frivolity of this Kosciusko campaign. Likely most appealing to a sub-30 audience prone to appreciate the irony of the retro design and not looking for anything too serious from their choice of brew, it makes sense.

“But I’m a strategist, so why stop at analysing the craft of the ad?

“As a platform, the strength of ‘Beer with Altitude’ is the witty connection between the provenance of the brand with the promise of an attitude – Altitude > attitude, see what they did there? But I’m torn on the execution of this undoubtedly bigger thought.

“What is the attitude this beer delivers on? This execution doesn’t really give us a sense of what the ‘badge’ of ‘Kosci’ beer might be. What’s the bigger thought beyond ‘You drink it at the snow’? Is fun in the snow with a touch of retro cool enough to deliver a sense of aspiration and longing that will unlock a place in the valuable repertoire of the social drinker? What are the enduring memory structures that have been built that will encourage the drinker to choose this beer over all the other great options out there? I fear it’s all a bit one-off. And the naff consumption shot (insert enjoyment with friends!) doesn’t feel like it offers me much here either.

“I’m left feeling the platform is bigger than this execution and while the bones of something good are certainly there, I don’t think this thought is yet fully realised. Likely more will build out around this platform in coming campaigns – but for now, it’s missing something.

“Fun, but lacking much beyond enjoyable-to-consume craft.”

Rating: 7/10

Brand: Great Northern Brewing Co
Campaign: The Great Recamp
Agency: TBWA Sydney
The verdict: Strategically sound but gets lost in the execution

Shields says:

“This is a tough one. On one hand, I was moved by the skilful storytelling of this father/ son reunion. It’s hard not to be. The testimony is heartfelt, genuine and the film is really well shot with all the emotional triggers in all the right places.

“As a campaign for Great Northern, however, it missed the mark a bit for me. I imagine the experience is better in the cinema, where this ad originally ran and audiences are already primed for longer stories. But, even that choice is slightly jarring when the campaign is also about driving people to the great outdoors.

“The website that the film directs to feels like a separate campaign altogether – the personalised let’s-go-camping-dad invite you can generate there is actually quite cute, and much more in line with what I’d expect to see from the ‘Beer from up here’ but as a complete campaign, the whole thing feels a bit muddled to me.

“There are some lovely touches of storytelling, but a few too many elements seem to compete rather than complement each other in my opinion.”

Rating: 6/10

Futcher says:

“I love the potential of this brand direction and this thought: ‘Sometimes you need to go far and wide to stay close’. It’s Australian, down-to-earth, optimistic. At its simplest, ‘Get back to what matters, focus on family, reconnect man-to-man’, even, ‘Go camping on Father’s Day’. There is good stuff in there.

“Strategically, it is sound for this brand to position as a back-to-basics beer in an overly saturated world of craft – a counter to the beer ‘frilliness’ that represents modern metro consumption. To unlock a cross-generational connection between millennials and boomers is also smart from an audience-growth perspective.

“But, hey beer brand, why so serious?

“The executional approach of long heartfelt story (with deeply hidden branding) made me feel more sombre, sad and downright guilty than I want to feel for this category. I worry the guys behind this have forgotten that beer is for enjoyment, socialisation and connection. We want to be reminded how it makes us feel good, not guilted into consumption.

“Unpacking this further, the challenge with this kind of execution lies in the memory structures a piece of communication like this creates. Yes, emotion still drives connection and memorability of communication. Trouble is, it doesn’t necessarily drive positive brand linkage – the critical precursor to usage and consumption.

“I’m troubled by the amount of communication that is sold these days on the premise that being emotional equals brand resonance. The great challenge is always that emotional responses only unlock good brand connection when the emotion aligns perfectly with how we want people to feel about the brand.

“In this circumstance, I worry that if a consumer recalls the ad, they will remember it as ‘The sad one about the guilty son (who dances) and the Dad with cancer’. The linkage to ‘brand of beer that inspires me to reconnect simply with my father’ could well be lost. This brand has huge opportunity to counter a market proliferated with fluff, why not nail the positioning of ‘beer the way it should be, simple, honest, made for sharing’ to the ground?

“It’s so close. I hope they push this thinking further in future work and don’t get too lost in the emotional story-telling that we in the industry so love, but our audiences are so tiring of.”

Rating: 6/10

  • As told to Zoe Wilkinson. If you’re a senior creative or strategist who would like to take part in a future Campaign Review, please email zoew@mumbrella.com.au

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