Campaign Review: second round of vax ads from Telstra, VB and Virgin

In Campaign Review, Mumbrella invites the industry’s creatives and strategists to offer their views on recent ad campaigns. This week: in a special Campaign Review, Mumbrella has asked Five by Five Global's Matt Lawton and Morrison Creative's Rob Morrison to evaluate the recent vaccination campaigns from Telstra, VB and Virgin Australia.

Brand: Telstra

Campaign: ‘Will the COVID-19 vaccine give me 5G?’

Agency: In-house

The verdict: Preaching to the choir, not going to convince the non-believers

Matt Lawton, managing director and strategy director at Five by Five Global, says:

Trust. It’s a warzone these days. I think people trust Telstra when they are all-Australian in tone, but probably a bit less so when they are sardonic like this. Trust would be the issue if this ad was aimed at people who are feeling anxious about the jab.

But I get the impression here that clean cut Mark is just appealing to anyone already vaccinated who can recycle some of these gags on zoom calls to like-minded friends. If we assume the anti-vaxers won’t be persuaded by being belittled and aren’t the intended audience anyway, then we’re left with the apathetic. Maybe it’ll persuade them despite there being one Chupa-Chup joke too many.

I’ll give kudos for continuing the talent and theme from 2020. And I applaud the ability to keep the self deprecation off the cutting room floor that helps make this Telstra a more human Telstra, but I think these will do a lot better as 10 second cut-downs than the full two mins which drags and repeats to the point of being self indulgent.

Rating: 6/10

Rob Morrison, creative director and principal at Morrison Creative, says:

Firstly, credit where it’s due. Having done several tours of duty on Telstra I know how difficult it is to get work to run. Every idea has to survive a gamut of sharpened knives and even sharper U-turns. So, credit the agency, credit the production company and credit the marketers at Telstra. And the core of this is a lovely thought: “The tin hat brigade think vaccines connect to 5G. We build and sell 5G. So, let’s debunk that bullshit and tell the truth.”

Trouble is the idea never quite realises its potential. Maybe the script just wasn’t funny enough – I can empathise as I don’t do funny. Maybe it’s the lockdown location – I’m bored with my own living room so I’m not that interested in seeing someone else’s. Maybe, given the talent is credited as a writer, this fell into the crack between pull entertainment and push advertising. Or maybe, at 2+ minutes, it’s just too long.

It’s was lovely kernel which didn’t quite pop.

Rating: 4/10

Brand: Victoria Bitter

Campaign: Vaccination campaign

Agency: Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

The verdict: Classic nostalgia that delivers

Lawton says:

It’s worth acknowledging that only people in our industry will be interested in advertising for its logistics at the moment. Being able to shoot in Covid safe ways is having a massive impact on creative concepting. We’re also observing that brands are polarising as a result of the pandemic. Some are demonstrating their progressive nature, others are nostalgic, lobbying for an audience who want things to go back to the way they were.

VB has woven a clever brand story from old footage and made it relatable with some good writing. While it makes sense to be seen to support the on-trade, I’m not sure we need to be told what the prize is.

Socialising in pubs must be at the top of a lot of peoples list of things they’ve missed and intend to indulge in at the earliest opportunity. So, I would question how much this brand is really invested in the civic minded call-to-action.

Our ECD loves this ad and I think there’s probably something to be said for a brand that recognises where its equity resides and presenting itself in a relevant way at the right time to bring on the feels for nostalgic minded people.

For me, this isn’t an ad about getting the jab, it’s an ad to drive VB brand preference and why not.

Rating: 8/10

Morrison says:

Ah, the magical voice of John Meillin. Yes, I know this is the latest in a long line of impersonators. But without John, who passed away in 1989, we don’t have one of Australia’s longest running, most iconic campaigns. And that would make us all the poorer.

This is a pretty good extension. Using historical footage immediately gives the brand a credibility any new brand simply can’t match. And, given we’re all desperate to get back to a simpler time, it’s a very smart play. There’s even a hint at diversity.

On the flip side, there’s just a couple of disappointing moments in the script. Surely there was a rhyming couplet that could have been used instead of “Roll up your sleeve and get the jab.”

Grab the jab? Nab a jab? Drink a slab then go a stab? Also feels like the band-aid graphic is unnecessary clutter. I had to watch it multiple times to catch the “Let’s get back to earning a thirst” tagline.

And that’s a shame as that’s a cracker.

Rating: 8/10

Brand: Virgin Australia

Campaign: ‘The Feeling of Flying

Agency: The Precinct

The verdict: Split decision on whether it lands or crashes

Lawton says:

I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do to highlight the worst and most boring parts of flying even if it’s to poke fun. Virgin know they can’t match Qantas for the Australiana feels so they have to play in this more insightful space that is supposed to feel more contemporary but can sometimes feel cheap. Adding a points-driven ‘vaxandwin’ promotion to this ad tips it into the wrong basket for me. I don’t really understand using promotional incentives in this way to begin with, but tying it to ads which require the ‘suspension of disbelief’ makes the campaign even weaker. I think Australians want to know, how will flying be different now, among other pragmatic concerns. I’ve flown Virgin exclusively for many years because they are much more empathetic and service-oriented than Qantas. “Welcome back” doesn’t cover it.

Where’s the demonstration of real empathy? Oh don’t take yourself so seriously Matt, it’s meant to be a bit of fun. Yes ok. But showing customers doing things they would never do to demonstrate how much they’ve missed flying doesn’t seem like a strong insight.

It feels too trivial for something that will soon deliver the human connections we’ve all been missing.

Rating: 5/10

Morrison says:

Some brands are simply better placed to push the vaccination message. Their product is more relevant. Their audience are more responsive. And their business depends on it more. No one is in a better (or worse) position than travel.

That said, it would have been easy to get the tone of this wrong. Come across as desperate. Or dictatorial. Or charmless. These two spots are none of that. Two simple, relatable stories which are true to the brand and not overwritten. Elegantly told with just two words of dialogue.

My only niggle is the offer super. It’s doesn’t actually mention free flights and starting with “We” makes it “chest-beaty”. Forgive the old-school copywriter in me but “We’re giving vaccinated Australians a chance to win” doesn’t connect or motivate as well “You could win free flights. But only if you’re vaccinated.” That said, it’s a teeny, tiny criticism.

Personally, “Travellator” connects better than “Sleeping” (maybe because I never sleep on planes). But right now, I’d be happy with the insomnia.

Rating: 9.5/10

As told to Anna Macdonald. If you’re a senior creative or strategist who would like to take part in a future Campaign Review, please email


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