Campaign Review: The verdict on MLA’s refreshing spot, SMH’s disappointing ad and Uncle Toby’s nostalgia

Mumbrella invites the industry’s most senior creatives and strategists to offer their views on the latest ad campaigns. This week: M&C Saatchi's Emma Robbins and Town Square's Neville Doyle offer their views on MLA's simple messaging, the SMH's failure to connect with an audience, Uncle Toby's nostalgia and Cadbury's missed opportunity.

Brand: Meat and Livestock Australia
Agency: The Monkeys
The Verdict: A memorable ad with a simple message

Emma Robbins, ECD at M&C Saatchi Melbourne, says:

Robbins says: ” it’s refreshing, fun and makes me feel good about Australian beef”

“In a television world of brands telling us about themselves, their products and their product benefits through testimonials, boring demonstrations or contrived situations, Meat & Livestock made a funny song about theirs and had a butcher sing it.

“They could have written an open letter. On Facebook. But they didn’t.

“It might not be as awesome as some of their previous work, but it’s refreshing, fun and makes me feel good about Australian beef, being Australian, and even Tasmanian.”

Rating: 7/10

Neville Doyle, chief strategy officer at Town Square, says:

Doyle says: “The entire experience still left me feeling rather cold”

“Increasingly today it seems enormously difficult to get clients to take risks, to do things that will ensure they stand out from the noise and get noticed. On this front, I always refer back to the old Dave Trott stat that when it comes to advertising, 4% is remembered positively, 7% negatively and 89% is not remembered at all. The danger is that everyone is so worried about being in that 7%, they would rather be in the 89%. The 89% provides a sort of banal safety blanket.

“So, fair play to all involved having a swing at this one. Taking on the task of creating a song that’ll be memorable and get stuck in a consumer’s mind is definitely no small feat. Does this achieve that? Well, it’s certainly an ad that I will remember seeing, and its simple message that Australia has the greatest beef in the world is not a complicated takeaway. Maybe that is enough – a reassuring nudge to all shoppers to choose Australian.

“However, the entire experience still left me feeling rather cold. For whatever reason, the execution utterly failed to create even a wry smile. I’m not sure if it’s partially that the core claim is one you will see in ads for British beef, American beef, New Zealand beef and there is little in this ad to actual convince me that actually, it’s only true for Australian beef.

“I also, for the second time in the four ads I reviewed this week, struggled to actually work out what was being said. After a fourth viewing I had to turn on YouTube subtitles as I was simply not getting it. I do think the power of a good song in an ad is hugely underrated, but to be remembered you really need to make sure your audience can understand the words being sung, and to try to steer clear of straying into cringy territory. That’s never where you want to take your brand, no matter how memorable it may be.”

Rating: 5/10

Brand: Sydney Morning Herald
Agency: With Collective
The Verdict: Disappointing because it fails to create a connection with the audience 

Robbins says:

“Two things don’t sit right with me about the SMH spot. Firstly, I was always taught that you can start a sentence with conjunctions as long as the sentence is not a fragment. Meaning you need to write a complete sentence.

“By breaking the stories you deserve to know. We provoke the conversations that need to be had.” It shouldn’t have a full stop after ‘know’ should it? It should have a comma. And they’re journos.

“Secondly, I don’t feel good about a newspaper telling me they’ll let me have the news I deserve to know. It feels too much like them saying they’re recognising I have earned the right, or that I’m worthy of knowing what they allow me to know. Or maybe I’m just angry about news coverage full stop.

“Isn’t a newspaper reporting the news just them doing their job, because they’re a newspaper? Isn’t it us who decides whether they deserve us reading their news?”

Rating: 4/10

Doyle says:

“We are living in a golden age for journalism and investigative reporting. Why? Well, because the world is going to hell in a handcart and there’s seemingly more genuinely awful things taking place and being covered up than ever before.

“It has also been rather creatively fertile for those advertising the great journalistic institutions, with the partnership between Droga5 and the New York Times being the most obviously example to point towards.

“So, against that backdrop I have to say I found this campaign for the Sydney Morning Herald to be somewhat of a disappointment, as it fails to really create any sort of meaningful connection with me as to what stands the Sydney Morning Herald out from their competitors. Instead, it felt like a manifesto which you could just as easily attribute to any major Australian paper. Surely reporting stories that the public need to know is literally the point of a newspaper existing?

“As an attempt to create differentiation by building on the existing brand platform, it did not go far enough. It feels like the strategy set up so impressed the clients they bought it there and then and never really let the creatives off the leash to truly explore where they could take this to make sure it went beyond this final execution, which I’m afraid ends up feeling like a hygiene factor, not a point of difference.”

Rating: 4/10

Brand: Uncle Toby’s
Agency: McCann
The Verdict: Nostalgic but the ad has to do all the heavy lifting

Robbins says:

“I’m pretty old, so I remember this spot like it was yesterday. And now I have little kids, who hate porridge, but they might even be tricked into eating it in a convenient breakfast bar after seeing this.

“Either way, the conversation would go: My kids: Mum, why’s that little kid saying that’s no how you make porridge over and over in a Scottish accent?
Me: It’s a remake, of an ad, from when I was young.
My kids: Did you grow up in Scotland?
Me: No.
My kids: In the olden days?
Me in my head: Shut Up. God I’m old. I hate Uncle Toby’s for reminding me.

“But that dad in the ad reminds me of Tormund Giantsbane, last surviving commander of the wildlings in Game of Thrones, so I also dig it.”

Rating: 6/10

Doyle says:

“Nostalgia can be an underrated tool in a marketer’s arsenal. As can bringing back some much beloved element of the brand from its past, something which consumers have a strong emotional connection with that is going to help drive that all important consideration when they stand in an aisle cluttered with brands and spend approximately 1.5 seconds deciding which box to reach for.

“That being said, this still felt like a slightly baffling way to choose to launch a new porridge bar product. Now, I will freely admit that when the original ad aired I was a toddler/small child living in the UK. So, the nostalgia angle was unlikely to strike much of a chord with me. Upon a quick straw poll amongst Aussies old enough to have seen this ad there was a mixed response – some baffled blank stares, but also some chuckles of recognition and confirmation that this was a line they knew well enough back then that would have been echoed in their kitchens.

“Not being privy to the brief or an expert in this particular market, I am making some presumptions, but I would see the product itself is aimed at a cross over ‘lunch box option’ for parents with young children and a breakfast replacement on the go for people too busy to sit still for breakfast. I would presume that the agency and client went out and did their due diligence and are confident that there is a big enough audience who can be swayed by their connections to the past ad, but I remain sceptical. Not least because we live in an Australia where over 28% of the population was born overseas, and that is a hefty segment of the total audience to immediately lose.

“So, that leaves us with the actual ad itself, which I feel is going to have to do all the heavy lifting. And on that front, I fear it’s going to struggle, not least because I had to actually watch the thing three times to understand everything that was said. Upon enquiring with an actual Scottish friend about his feelings about the accents on display on this ad, his answer was unfortunately unprintable.

“The whole thing left me slightly bemused, but I will end with the caveat that maybe I am vastly underestimating the cultural power of that buck toothed little Scottish kid and that the product will veritably fly off the shelves.”

Rating: 6/10

Brand: Cadbury
Agency: Cadbury
The Verdict: A missed opportunity that lacks meaning

Robbins says:

“When we receive a personal letter, we feel like we’ve been delivered a special gift.Opening one, you really appreciate someone took the time to sit down, write specifically to you, giving you a small piece of themselves in their own carefully self-expressed words.

“Except if it reads like a legal prior warning/notice covering why a company’s chocolate is going to be smaller in size and cost slightly less, disguised as a personal letter. Delivered on Facebook to another 15 million other people like you.

“Chocolate is special and meaningful. So are letters.

“Maybe there was a way to combine the two in a more special and meaningful way? Like Top Deck.”

Rating: 3/10

Doyle says:

“My initial thoughts here were that to call this ‘an ad’ was somewhat of a stretch. I know that in this digital world we live there are increasingly ideas being brought to life in new and innovative ways, ways that would seem alien to past generations of marketers, but this really stretches what we are defining as advertising these days.

“Let’s start with what’s good. Fair play to Cadburys for fronting up and being honest with their consumers about what they are doing, and why. I actually faced this exact problem eight years ago when a UK milkshake brand called Frijj faced the exact same problem. We pushed them to front up to it, but they feared drawing attention to the change and refused to heed our advice. The inevitable backlash from a (surprisingly passionate) group of core consumers proved far worse than being straight up.

“However, that’s as far as the praise can go, as it does feel like a missed opportunity creatively. When you are a brand whose core purpose is ‘to give people joy’, I just wonder if there might have been some way of trying to instil a little bit of a spark into what is very dry copy that reads as if it has been dictated directly from the client’s legal department.”

Rating: 5/10

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

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